Tom Blackaller's first experience in a World's Championship was finishing 25th out of 30 in the 1959 gold star series. He came back for another and more successful try in 1963, scoring 8th and winning one race, and had an identical record again in 1967. In 1968 there was no World's, but Blackaller won two silver stars that year, the Spring and the North American Championships, and the following year he was the runner-up to Pelle Petterson in the World's, starting a rivalry that has continued through 1974. In 1970 he had a 3-1-4-3 in the World's, but was disabled in the other race in the days when there was no worst race exemption. In 1971 he slipped to 11th in the gold star event, but bounced back to 3rd in 1973. In 1974 he put everything together for a whirlwind two weeks in Spain: first in both the European Championship silver event and the World's Championship.
The daily winners have been good enough to give us their impressions of what it is like to win two gold chevrons in a championship of 51 boats, sailed in a bay of the Atlantic Ocean off a picturesque and mountainous shore.
- Pelle Petterson
In the first race the wind was blowing offshore 10-20 miles per hour and a little shifty, exactly the conditions that I like the best. The swell coming in from the sea was not annoying this day. We got a very good start, which enabled us to tack at the first header, and then I just tried to sail my own boat and not to look at the others. As the wind was shifting frequently there was a lot of tacking on the first leg; but it was even racing among a dozen boats, and had we not approached the mark on starboard tack we might well have rounded in 8th or 10th place. As it was we squeezed around first, with the Italian Danilo Folli second and the Swiss Peter Wyss third, and then a crowd including Blackaller. The reaches were parades; not much happened; we might have lengthened our lead about another boat length. Rounding up for the second windward leg we started out very well by paying no attention to the others. We hit a couple of good ones just right, and half way up we had a lead of about 100 yards. Things looked too good, and I started to think about that huge, impressive but rather ugly Elder Memorial Trophy, which I had first won in Seattle in '71 and carried half around the world back home and then in '72 down to Caracas. I also had a perfect spot for it in my office, so now just to be sure I had better start covering. So we began chasing the on comers to the left and to the right and of course it wasn't long before this change of tactics became disastrous. Our lead soon diminished to nothing. Approaching the windward mark on port tack we had to give up and go astern of Blackaller and Folli. The three of us rounded the mark almost overlapped.
We made a quick jibe, and were now running down in line with each other. But we had picked the best side, and after a couple of jibes at the end to prevent Tommy from getting inside us we came around in good shape.
We were quite happy that the final windward leg was a bit one-sided, mainly port tacks. This made life a lot easier for us in controlling the fleet. We held a rather loose cover on Tom. It was a fantastic sensation to have the gun go off almost in my ear and to look back about a hundred yards and see a folded together Blackaller in his customary crouch on the windward rail.
- Thomas Blackaller
- Eckart Wagner
If we had good luck in this race, two races later it went the other way when, under similar circumstances, the reaching mark turned up to leeward instead of to windward of where the leaders thought it would be. It seems a pity that the balloons could not have been flown on these marks that were so difficult to see against the shore and in the huge seas.
You asked why I did not finish out the series. In the fourth race our bow was very badly damaged in a collision, and we dropped out after one leg of the fifth race rather than risk further danger to the boat and perhaps even to ourselves.
- Durward Knowles
Downwind these positions
remained unchanged except for Blackaller moving up to third and closing
in on the leaders. On rounding the leeward mark, Petterson tacked to starboard,
with Blackaller covering, and von Below and Whipple, in turn, covering
also. This gave us and Gem, and Pombo's Vindio, the opportunity to go
to the right where we sailed into more wind and a header. Tacking over
onto starboard with a big lift, we both overtook the leaders to round
first and second, with Whipple third and Blackaller fourth.
- Arnold Osterwaldcr
The start had to be postponed until 1420 hours for lack of wind. The race committee, which renounced a second race the day before due to too strong wind and too many dnf's caused by gear failure, had to give now a start in a wind of at most Force 2 in order not to jeopardize the validity of the World's Championship. Shortly before the start the wind shifted from east toward the northward, and all competitors tried in the last minute to reach the leeward end and to tack immediately to port after the gun. A small group of boats continued on starboard, mainly because they did not have room to tack. This group happened to reach an increasing and heading wind, enabling them to tack and reach the windward mark far ahead of the bulk, who had a rather hard time under the shore fighting against all extraordinarily high swell with light winds of maximum Force 2.
Max Juchli, a newcomer from the Bodensee Fleet in Switzerland, arrived at the mark 100 yards ahead of Osterwalder, Hamberg and Steinmayer. The leeward marks could again this day be seen only from rather short distance, but could be found with compass course 315° and 225° respectively. The committee boat showed and hailed a new windward compass bearing of 20° for the second beat. The wind had freshened already during the reaches to 6-10 knots. On starboard tack one could fetch 10°, which induced me to follow this tack whereas Juchli did not cover and sailed well away to the right on the port tack, thus overstanding the mark. We were attacked to windward by Hamberg and Kim Fletcher, who in the meantime had also come up. Our defense by means of a tack was too late and the now leading boats tacked as well. To avoid overstanding we tacked back. Hamberg and Fletcher, who easily could have covered us, showed no inclination to do so and let us go. They obviously thought the reaching mark was the new windward mark. We therefore arrived at the windward mark considerably ahead of everybody else. Way back followed Larry Whipple and Josi Steinmayer, who had passed the overstanding Hamberg and Fletcher.
On the run we actually lapped the last competitor, and reached the finish 4 ½ minutes ahead of Whipple, Steinmayer, Fletcher, Hamberg and Juchli. The main body of the fleet arrived considerably later, led by Bill Hock of Australia.