The 1972 World's Championship provided many firsts: the first World's in Venezuela, at the magnificent Club Puerto Azul; the first six race series, with a worst-race exemption, the first World's to be sailed under special relaxed qualification requirements, and the first ever to be sailed so early in the year (March). The last two conditions were occasioned by coordinating the international yachting calendar in an Olympic year.
The weather was perfect, with winds less heavy than those expected off Puerto Azul at this season. Although the seas were long and sometimes steep, the winds blew 5 to 15 knots under brilliant sunshine (which was also brutal to those who hadn't protected their skins). The sixty entries were the best from twelve nations, five different countries being represented by the first five boats in the final score.
As Paul Elvstrom came to fame through his Olympic gold medals in the Finn Class, so also Willi Kuhweide, the new Star champion of the World, was the Finn gold medalist in 1964. Joerg Bruder, recently crowned North American Champion in November at Miami and runner-up in this World's, is also a Finn World's Champion. The top of the Finn Class indeed produces formidable Star sailors.
Prior to the series the South American Championship was sailed in almost the same waters, and Ding Schoonmaker, with Tom Dudinsky crewing, won his fourth consecutive Silver Star in that event. Kuhweide was pushing Schoonmaker hard until he failed to finish the fourth race, which put him out of contention (standard scoring, no worst race exemption). The ever-consistent Stig Wennerstrom was second. Most of the same starting list competed in both series; but for the World's the course was moved farther out to sea, creating a whole new set of conditions and equalizing the chances, with no advantage to those who had sailed the close-in course the previous week or the previous year.
In the opening race, Eckart Wagner had Subbnboana in a perfect position at the flag end at the start, and led all the way to the finish line. John Albrechtson's Contact staged a serious threat on the last weather leg, coming within five lengths of the leader, but dropped back to sixth at the finish. Flavio Scala sailed Mirage to second and would have been a high series contender but for two bad final races, (a throw-out helps a lot, but you don't have two of them). Bruder was third.
After two general
recalls at the beginning of the second race, Kuhweide, Scala, Wennerstrom
and Schoonmaker hit the top end of the line together and split immediately
toward shore. Sunny powered into a lead which she held all the
way around the course. Bruder, the "down wind terror", moved
himself up to third at the end of the first round, having been sixth at
the first weather mark.
Kuhweide left no doubt about discards or anything else by taking another first in the sixth and final race of the series. Schoonmaker sailed beautifully to pull up to second after being eighth at the first mark, but could not come near Bruder in the score for series second.
West Germany mounted a tremendous effort, with 13 boats, a number surpassed only by the U.S.A. with 20. But the keynote was international. A German Lufthansa pilot, in a U.S. plastic hull with a Brazilian aluminum rig and Austrian sails, won the series. Second was a five-year-old U.S. wooden hull sailed by Brazilians, with Brazilian mast and Austrian sails; and third was an all-U.S. outfit.
From the Race Committee
The nightmare of all race committees is a race either not started or called off for lack of wind. We did not have that problem. We did have a deep water problem for marks, which the marineros overcame by back power in the absence of power winches. Although the locations were not customary, we had them move the marks out to sea after the South American Championship, to get the port tackers off the beach. The three turning buoys then remained in place, and were lighted at night. But, the Committee Boat had to be anchored for each race for both the start and the finish, it was anchored by snaring a grappling hook in a crack in the hard bottom (usually after several tries). Although the wind blows at approximately 90 (lust as it did when Columbus on his third voyage explored these shores 500 years ago), sometimes it would vary by 5-10° in either direction, making it necessary to adjust the line for a right angle by pulling up or dropping back. Since the current was unpredictable, and could change as much as 180° during a race, it was necessary to anchor bow and stern and we used a Boston Whaler to kedge out the stern line. Shifting position was thus doubly complicated.
Charlie de Cardenas, my able Vice-Chairman, has a wind pennant on a collapsible aluminum radio antenna which he holds against the front of a hand bearing compass to get true wind direction. Except for some last minute windshifts, this device gave us lines exactly square to the wind for both start and finish. At least they were square where we were, although the wind may have differed at the other end of the 600 yard starting line. The boats are so close in performance now that the O course is much better for taking finishes. For the sixth race we used course I, and moved the turning marks the evening before to adjust for the increased length. Although the late Tom Tranfaglia was great as chief recorder, Charlie's tape machine proved a worthy asset as a means of verifying the numbers I had called, especially on the last day with its closely bunched down-wind finish. We had done some calculating and gave Willi a gun for winning the race and some toots for winning the series.
Charlie himself, with his multilingual ability, made communications with the sailors on the boat and with the marker yachts over the radio very efficient. This talent was invaluable the day the Committee Boat engines conked out and we needed the whaler to take us two miles to the finish.
The races were held
within binocular range of the large sea wall that protects the entrance
to the harbor. The boats were hauled after each race, two hoists and a
portable crane serving assigned sectors. Each boat had its own stall with
a sun-cover under which it could be backed. At night, armed patrolmen
protected the equipment from petty pilferage. There were proper bulletin
board arrangements and a room for the I.R.C. and protest hearings close
at hand. A Star could be rolled on its trailer to one of two steel towers
with platforms, and the rigging serviced all the way to the top without
removing the mast. Have you tried installing a new main halyard in an
aluminum mast? In the launching area there was a store with marine supplies,
and the marina repair shop.
The Club Puerto Azul has at least 5,000 members who flock there from Caracas in great numbers on weekends. The facilities, all available to us, included several restaurants and snack bars, sports areas from checkers to bocci, bowling lanes, and tennis courts, a beach on the Caribbean with surf, and a beach in the harbor with no surf.
With the prospect
of the large fleets in the World's in the future, we must look for localities
with as many of the desirable features provided at Puerto Azul as we can
find: reliable racing conditions, good organization, good accommodations
at reasonable cost, and an entertainment schedule for the week. There
was a camaraderie unequalled before. which I am sure was the result of
our being so close in all our activities.