"The 1976 Star World's Championship was, as usual, a super competitive regatta, superbly hosted this year by the Nassau Yacht Club. The series attracted 64 entries from 8 countries and included 6 world's champions. None of the former gold star winners were victorious, Jim Allsopp from Annapolis, Maryland, emerging as champion with a record of 24-2-1-5-1-4. After throwing out his first race disaster Jim earned a 7 point victory over Bill Buchan of Seattle with Barton Beek of Los Angeles a close third. Allsopp had never placed in the top ten in a previous Star World's; he had never won a silver star or a gold chevron. He simply put everything together for a week of perfect sailing and beat the competition solidly." Since then Jim has added a silver star to his gold by winning the 1976 European Championship at Marstrand.
"The winner averaged a little better than 3rd" (in fact 2.6) "in the races he counted which in a 64 boat fleet is quite an accomplishment. Bill Buchan was close but never won a race and generally didn't have the speed required to beat Allsopp; he used good starts and errorless sailing to achieve his runner-up position. Barton Beek, who has been sailing Stars for more than 35 years, won his highest place to date in a World's Championship."
The above quotations are by 1974 world's champion Tom Blackaller in the North Sails Newsletter.
Getting 64 boats off to a fair start in the rugged wind conditions that prevailed for most of the week presented a challenge ably met by Lowell North and his committee of experts that included Bobby Symonette and former world's champion Carlos de Cardenas. A veritable navy of support boats included marker yachts, course setters, a line setting boat, recall speedboats, the Judges' boat, messenger boats and standby boats seemingly without end. The management of this vast flotilla was all under radio control of the race committee which also had to direct the laying out of the courses and start the races. It required practice, which they didn't have; but after the first two days everything smoothed out admirably.
The third try was called back also, to re-set the line which had become slightly skewed due to a wind shift. After a postponement the fourth start finally was allowed to stand and the race got away in about 10 knots of wind from the southeast. Beek, Knowles and Schoonmaker rounded the first mark first, followed by a huge clump very close together. Togetherness was the word for the entire series: no one had outstanding boatspeed, there were no very bad wind shifts to split up the fleet, and every position was hard fought right down the line.
The wind at the home mark died to around 5 knots, the minimum for the week, partly because of the wall of sails coming up astern and partly because of the large spectator fleet. Schoonmaker took Knowles the next time up while Beek was lengthening his lead to 16 seconds. Knowles barely held his third place, just nosing out Whipple and Buchan at the finish.
On the windward legs the "outside edges" were both successful. The first time up Beek went all the way to one lay line and Knowles all the way to the other, both playing minor shifts the while. Those who tacked too often up the middle did not fare so well. This may have been partly due to the big fleet which, on such a compact windward leg, tended to leave the air in a permanent state of turmoil in the middle of the course.
A Bacardi sponsored cocktail party that night was followed by a barbecue, successfully served to the huge crowd by the Nassau Yacht Club.
On a square line most of the fleet was over too soon; but the race committee, unable to see the far end of the line, saw an even start and let it go but not for long. They soon noticed that the first mark was out of place. The windward leg of Course O is only two miles long, and from a starting line a half mile long it becomes possible for a boat almost to lay the mark from one end of the line if the leg is somewhat out of true. This time it was so one-sided that part of the fleet was almost immediately overstanding. The committee tried to have the mark moved, but too late: the boats on the favoured tack were already there, mark in motion, race cancelled by the Judges. Barton Beek, leading at the time, pounded the deck in frustration; but others were happy to do the whole thing over again. Among these were Allsopp, buried at the start (possibly he was on the line instead of over with the crowd;) and Schoonmaker. Ding had parted a jibstay and was heading into the harbour when the race was abandoned. He effected repairs from his 70 foot mother-ship and came back to win the resailed race. But it was not the Defender's week: too many things went wrong for Ding later in the series, despite which he wound up fifth, better than 59 others were able to do.
The next try saw one general recall and then a beautiful start with only the ever-daring Carlsson recalled. Durward Knowles, at the port end, tacked immediately and crossed most of the fleet until he was eventually forced by a starboard boat that had started at the committee end. How square a line can you set! Allsopp jumped into the lead and held it most of the way around the course. Basil Kelly, second at the first mark, finished fourth, his best place in a very consistent week in which he was never worse than ninth. Ding was third, moving into second the next time up and passing Allsopp on the third windward leg for a win of 25 seconds over Allsopp. "Who is this 5660?" was the question being asked today by spectators and officials. They would soon enough find out.
The second time around it was Allsopp, Zagarino, Burnham and Buchan in that order; but Zag dropped to sixth, replaced by Read Ruggles in second at the finish. Allsopp won by I min. 21 sec., a very long distance is so much breeze.
After three races 2-l-8 was enough to give Schoonmaker the Vanderveer Trophy by 8 points over Nassau's Kelly. It was awarded at a cocktail party given at the governor's mansion by their excellencies Governor and Lady Butler. Other prizes presented that evening included the Retired President's Dynamite Trophy, awarded (with cheers) to Durward Knowles.
At the home mark the first time down Beek, having arranged to approach from inside on starboard, missed the jibe, rounded up too far and had to tack and jibe again. Knowles pulled out a chainplate. (Bill Buchan was very busy with the fiberglass kit that night.) There was some fast planing and wild jibing on the downwind legs. Allsopp sailed well to fight up from about 12th at the first mark to 6th at the finish. It blew up to 28 knots on that last windward leg. Only 51 boats finished.
The second time down near the end of the run Tom Drew-Bear spotted a swimmer signalling for help, rounded up, and rescued Randy Wilkin, skipper of 5539. Wilkin had fallen overboard and his crew was unable to pick him up single handed. Even wearing a life jacket he was not enjoying his swim under those conditions. Drew-Bear requested finish points for 46th, his position at the time he had to abandon the race, which were promptly granted by the Jury.
After two general recalls the fleet got off to a fine even start. After every general recall Lowell would re-set the line to correct the slight flaw that had caused the bunching at one end or the other, so that the line for the final re-start was always perfectly square. For nearly all final starts the fleet was spread over the whole line. Half a mile, if it is all used, allows a line less than two lengths per boat, just nice breathing space.
A few boats overstood the port lay line because of a lee bow current. Allsopp rounded the first mark with a small lead, enlarged a bit because the next two, Blackaller and Beek, were among the overstanders.
More often than was to be expected in this fleet of experts a jib would get away during a leeward rounding and end up wrapped around the headstay. This embarrassment occurred to the leader today at the home mark and Allsopp himself sprang forward to clear it with Guhin at the tiller. Schoonmaker, about 24th the first time around, did very well to work up to 11th at the finish, especially with one hand badly cut when a hiking strap let go and dumped him into the sea in mid-race. He had already used his throw-out.
The second time upwind Malin Burnham sailed all the way to the starboard lay line, a good gamble based on the theory that the wind was slowly clocking, and moved from 5th to 2nd thereby. At the windward mark this trip it was Allsopp and then three gold stars Burnham, Blackaller and Petterson, then Tedd Rapp out of nowhere for the first time. The last time up Malin tried east again, but it didn't work. The course had been changed from 10° to 25°, and on the third windward leg the wind must have swung back the other way a trifle. Blackaller gave Allsopp a great battle up the last leg, the champion-to-be getting the gun by 2 seconds. The boats were moving so fast in the smooth water that they fooled the race committee, who got themselves on station just in the nick of time for the finish.
Sir Roland and Lady Symonette, who have entertained at every major Star event held at Nassau for forty years, staged a fabulous party at their harbour front home on this last night before the final race.
The wind had completed its clockwise turn through 360° to the prevailing easterly tradewind direction, at 18-20 knots. After clouds and showers yesterday the sun returned to provide the usual blazing blue sky for the finale.
Blackaller and Rapp were recalled in a start that saw some crowding at the marker end. At the first mark it was Burnham, Buchan and Schoonmaker, and then Allsopp holding high to give Ding plenty of room. Finding themselves in fourth place Allsopp and Guhin were obviously trying to play it safe. They needed to finish only ninth or better in this race to guarantee victory. They slipped to 6th on the reach but were inside at the jibe mark to preserve that position. They worked up to 4th again on the next windward leg and held that winning place very comfortably to the finish. Series second went to twice world's champion Bill Buchan and the fight for third was so close that nobody was sure how it had turned out until the committee posted the final results.
Allsopp and Guhin are not physical giants. Jim weighs 195 lb. and Mike, his crew, 175 (88.5 and 79 kg.) Their boat was a 1971 Buchan that had shown no special potential until this series. It weighed in at 1500 lb., 20 lb. over the minimum. As Allsopp remarked after the series, "Ever since we finished second in the Spring Silver Star here a year ago we have had our sights set on this one." It was a well deserved victory, popular because it proved that a relatively little known skipper of skill and perseverance aided by a dedicated crew can come through and beat the best of the top competition.