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Regatta Report - 1996 World Championship, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

1996 WORLD'S CHAMPIONSHIP, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The following report appeared in the 1997 Star Class Log and was transcribed by David Bolles
Complete results for 1996

By Harry Webster Walker in the 1997 Star Class Log
The beauty of Rio and its beaches, mountains, bikinis and sun were important in bringing 61 sailors from 16 nations to this, the 74th Star World Championship 1996. The chance to sail against the best, plus back-to-back championships (the South Americans and the World’s), turned up a group of competitors that featured the current and seven former World’s champions, perhaps a dozen Silver Stars and a flock of winners of important Star Class events.

All boats had to be in the water by 1600 on Saturday so that everyone could attend Opening Ceremony. The verandah and terrace of the yacht club were crowded with dignitaries and guests, and the small basin was full with 61 white Star boats. The Navy band performed, speeches were made and 16 national flags were raised by competitors representing their nations as their respective national anthems were played. A cannon was fired, the Star Class flag was raised and the Championship was declared open.

Many of the 1996 World’s competitors had sailed in the South American Championship at Buzios, so they were tanned and accustomed to Brazirs summer heat prior to the World’s. The one and a half hour tow each day took us to the course off Copacabana Beach. It was hot; however, at about 12:30 p.m., the sea breeze started in.  
The first race, in 15-18 knots of breeze, was won by Peter Bromby and Lee White from Bermuda. It was a see-saw battle with Alan Adler and Rodrigo Meireles, with all of the good action to those who went left immediately following the start. The eventual championship winner, Enrico Chieffi was PMS, but Mark Reynolds with Hal Haenel, Torben Grael and Marcello Ferreira were up there. When asked how he did it, Bromby replied "Luck." Unfortunately, there was a great deal of plastic, wood and debris in the water that day which caused many boats difficulties.  

Race 2, in winds of up to 25 knots and enormous seas, was won by Torben Grael and Marcello Ferreira, perhaps the local favorite to win a second gold star. Torben edged out Enrico Chieffi and Mark Reynolds, with Vince Brun and Magnus Liljedahl taking second through fourth places.  

That evening many sailors crossed the bay by boat while others went around and over the Costa e Silva bridge in vans, supplied by sponsor Cutty Sark Scotch, to the Yacht Club Brazil at Niteroi, across the bay from Rio, where they held a great churasco, or barbecue. Every meat-eater in the crowd had his fill that night. Steak, sausage, lombo, chicken, beer and soft drinks were everywhere and more piled all the time. We all got back to our hotels after midnight completely satisfied  

Race 3, in more moderate but still fresh conditions, also had the wind at 120º. Olympic Gold Medalists in Finns, Dr. Jose Luis Doreste with Javier Hermida up front took this race that required much “changing gears.” The popular Spaniard tells us about it. “After several general recalls, like every day, finally we could start with a very nice wind, close to 20 knots. I did it in the upper third of the line, trying to avoid the problems of the big fleet starting near the Committee Boat. After the start we tried more to be faster than higher in order to reach the left part of the field as soon as possible, which has been paying better the previous races. We could sail over Colin Beashel and arrive very close to Hans Wallen, both in leeward. In windward we had Alan Adler and Peter Bromby as most dangerous boats.

“Close to the lay line, we tacked, going behind Bromby but crossing the rest of the fleet clearly. Arriving at the mark, the only boat that could disturb us was Wallen, who was in windward, going higher but slower. We crossed him in the last tack rounding the mark 25m in front of him. Beashel and Chieffi rounded 3rd and 4th. In the reaches and the run we gained some distance, which made our last beat relatively easy. The fight behind us was getting closer, because Chieffi reduced the distance to Beashel and Wallen. After some tacks, Wallen finished 2nd Beashel 3rd, and Chieffi 4th. It was a great coincidence to win the 3rd race of the World’s, like two years ago in San Diego and both times in front of Wallen.”

Race 4 was true to form - another winner and from another nation. Popular Gold and Silver Olympic Medalists Mark Reynolds and Hal Haenel from the USA won in 15-18 knot conditions and big seas. They beat Ross Macdonald with his crew Eric Jespersen. Mark states, “There was a nice breeze for the fourth race, small shifts and just enough wind and waves to do a bit of surfing off the wind. We had a mid-line start with clear air, but apparently in the middle of a large sag, the wind was a bit unstable right after the start and when we got out from the boats around us we saw we were a ways behind the boats at the starboard and port ends. We played the right middle and got around the windward mark in the lead and then just did our best to try to stay ahead of the pack.

“It was course "O" and we were barely able to hold off Macdonald and Jespersen after two reaches and rounded just ahead of them at the leeward mark. We gained a bit on the second beat which was just enough to hold off Ross and Eric and Wallen and Lohse who both came charging down with of a puff on the right side. Cayard and Iverson came up the middle on the last beat getting around Adler and Meireles who got way leveraged off to the right and Wallen and Lohse who chose the left. We tried to cover the best we could and crossed the line in front of Macdonald and Jespersen. This was an important race for us because the previous race we had made a ton of mistakes. The fourth race put us back into the hunt.”

The mid-week prize giving was held around the Rio Yacht Club pool and featured Torben and Marcello walking off with the Bud Vandeveer Trophy for the series leader at the end of the third race. Again, a lavish cocktail party and excellent churasco were provided by the organizers. Club Vice President Harry Adler made the presentations in 90º heat to a largely shorts and sports shirt crowd. It was enjoyed by all the Starboat friends.

The day of Race 5 started out with a north wind and heavy haze. The sea breeze was one hour late and left many struggling for the line. After only one general recall, the race got underway in 8 - 9 knots of wind from 130º and flatter seas. Enrico Chieffi with Robert Sinibnaldi won - the fifth different winner from the 5th nation. Enrico describes it best for us. “Race 5 was the only one sailed in light to moderate winds. The first windward leg was very difficult and most of the fleet got at the windward mark very close. Londrigan was first, I was second, and Semeraro was third. The run was almost all port because the wind had towed to the right. At the leeward mark I was first, with Londrigan second and Macdonald third. The wind came up to 12 knots and the top five boats were very close. On the last beat, the wind turned further right and I could win the race. Cayard got second and Adler third.” The wind died and all were eventually towed in.  

Race 6, the final race, started with five competitors having a good chance to win and two with outside possibilities. The conditions were slightly overcast before the start and the seas lumpy. The wind was 13-15 knots and at the first start, a genera recall, eight boats were blackflagged. The committee got us off on the second try for a course "3" race. The battle was between the co-leaders, Mark and Enrico, but Mark was not able to get hooked up with Enrico and the Italian took third to Mark's fifth - and the Championship.  

His smile and warmth and obvious joy in his victory were evident in his gracious speech after accepting the award when he thanked his crew and dedicated his victory to his bride of three weeks, Claudia. The finale was a splendid banquet, lots of dancing, great food and awards to deserving winners, including Peter Dirk Siemsen who took the Senior’s Trophy over Dierk Thomsen, second and Harry W. Walker, third.  

The organizers are to be congratulated and thanked. The International Jury had a few sticky questions which they solved. The Race Committee worked hard to give us accurate long courses and short squared lines. Everyone showed the competitors the most hospitality and cooperation possible.

Muito bein organizado e obrigado, Rio.