Photos by Jan Walker
After three days of preparation, weighing, and measuring, the practice race was run on Feb. 11th at 15:24 in a 15 knot wind from 130°. By 17:30 the sailors were ashore and preparing to attend the opening ceremony at 19:30 at the host club, Club Nautico de Olivos, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Only two teams finished the practice race as it did not count in points and the weather did not provide favorable conditions to sail the 10.8 miles. During the racing strong wind gusts and rainstorms came across the course.
Race One - February 12:
The Brazilian two-time Olympic champions, Torben Grael and Marcelo Ferreira stood out in race one of the 2005 Star World Championship being sailed Feb. 12-18 at the Club Nautico Olivos, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Racing takes place on the south side of the River Plate, which at this point is about 80 miles wide, and 100 miles from the sea. The water is fresh of a slightly brown color and generally has a chop on the surface as the river is fairly shallow.
Leading around the first three marks were Max Treacy/ Anthony Shanks from Ireland. Iain Murray/ Andrew Palfrey from Australia were 2nd until passed by Roy Heiner/ Alex Breuseker (Netherlands) at the 3rd mark. Following were a batch of world champions - Percy (GBR), Loof (SWE), Rohart (FRA), Reynolds (USA) and T. Grael (BRA). Grael/Ferreira had been in 11th place at the first two mark roundings but by the third mark, they had passed 3 boats, moving up to 8th and by the 4th mark they were in 1st. They briefly lost the lead to Heiner/Breuseker on the last mark of the course, but passed them by the finish line to win the race. Fredrik Loof / Anders Ekstrom, defending world champions, also passed Heiner/Breuseker to take 2nd place. Following were Max Treacy/Anthony Shanks (4th), Philippe Presti/Jean Phillipe Saliou (5th), Xavier Rohart/Pascal Rambeau (6th), Mark Reynolds/Phil Trinter(7th), Iain Murray/Andrew Palfrey (8th), George Szabo/Brian Fatih (9th) and Robert Scheidt/Bruno Prada (10th) in the top ten.
Race Two, February 13:
The second race of the 2005 Star Worlds was won by the French team of Xavier Rohart and Pascal Rambeau. In second were the English Iain Percy and Steve Mitchell, and in third the Americans Mark Reynolds and Phil Trinter.
Xavier Rohart and Pascal Rambeau led during the whole race. In the first leg they were followed closely by Grael and Ferreira. But the team that moved up spectacularly were Percy/Mitchell (yesterday they abandoned racing because of breaking the mast) who managed to climb from the tenth place to right behind Grael and Ferreira, who they finally passed on the third leg to get second place at the end.
The start was at 15:12hs with 50 boats (of a total of 52) and ended at 17:12hs, with 45 boats finishing. The wind at the start was ESE from 14 to 15 knots increasing to 18 knots by the end. Conditions were better than yesterday, with reduced winds and calmer water.
"Our start was excellent which was the cause of our victory today. The advantage we gained at the start permitted us to lead the whole race. Briefly, near the end, the English ame close but failed to pass us", commented Xavier Rohart, helmsman of the winning team. He added: "The milder weather conditions permitted more technique to be applied as the fear of tearing the sails was gone. Yesterday we were all taking care to not break anything but today we could put our minds to the tactics".
Mike Milner, helmsman of the Canadian team who dropped out before starting the race commented, "Forty-five seconds before the start we broke the mainsheet block. It made no sense to fix the boat right at the start as that would have put us way behind the fleet. Perhaps, if we had started racing, we could have worked to fix the problem while underway".
Julio Labandeira/Valentín Thompson had to drop out as they had the mainsail halyard break. Vicente Gimeno/ Jorge Zuazola of the Chilean team broke their mast. Guillermo J. Calegari/Patrician Homps and Juan Jose Precosi /Juan Pablo Precosi did not start.
Race Three – Feb. 14:
Each race so far has been won by one of the gold stars (10) and/or gold medals (9) in this fleet. The third race went to the double Laser Gold medalist Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada (BRA).
Percy/Mitchell (GBR) led to the first mark after playing the shifts well and rounded just in front of Presti/Saliou (FRA) and Reynolds/Trinter (USA). The boats split on the first downwind leg as the wind increased on the right side, condensing the fleet at the leeward gate with Scheidt/Prada (BRA) and Rohart/Rambeau (FRA) rounding the right gate mark and Percy/Mitchell rounding the left. The right side brought in the shift and Scheidt/Prada and Rohart/Rambeau crossed Percy/Mitchell halfway up the beat.
The first two squeezed around the 2nd windward mark, letting Percy/Mitchell close the gap somewhat. Scheidt’s years of Laser downwind sailing showed as he held on to first through the downwind leg, with Percy/Mitchell just on his transom at the leeward mark after overtaking Rohart/Rambeau. Scheidt/Prada went off left and Percy/Mitchell went right - left was correct and Scheidt/Prada crossed in front by 5 lengths halfway up the beat, with Rohart/Rambeau a further five behind Percy/Mitchell. Presti/Saliou, Murray/Palfrey (AUS) and Loof/Ekstrom (SWE) led the chasing group. By the finish Scheidt won by 2 lengths, the same margin that Percy/Mitchell had over Rohart/Rambeau for second. In 4th were Presti/Saliou. Murray/Palfrey were 5th, with Loof/Eckstrom 6th. The Brazilian contingent was vocal with horns and cheers for Scheidt/Prada’s first victory.
They won on a day with less wind and a calmer river, which brought more boats out to compete. Racing started at 15:05 with 51 out of the 52 boats entered competing. The wind at the start was ESE at 12 knots. At the end, the wind had diminished to 9 knots and moved into the SE.
Robert Scheidt, skipper of the winning boat said, "It is my first world championship and to be first, before all the other champions, is very motivating. I believe that the reasons we won is owed principally in that we succeeded in sailing very well downwind and we decided to go to the right, moving from 5th place to first. Then we dealt with the following oscillations of wind quite well and closely covered the English team following us to protect our lead."
The Argentines Guillermo J. Calegari (81 years)/Patricio Homp, and Alberto Zanetti/Mariano Lucca did not finish. Chileans Vicente Gimeno/Jorge Zuazola did not compete.
Race Four, February 15th:
For the second time the Brazilians Torben Grael/Marcelo Ferreira won a race. The gold medal winners at the Olympic Games in Athens 2004 beat the bronze medal winners Xavier Rohart and Pascal Rambeau, followed by another French team, Phillipe Presti and Jean Phillipe Saliou.
Today, the Argentines stood out. For the first time an Argentine team, Labandeira/Thompson, who finished 4th, were within the first three competitors. Robert Scheidt/Bruno Prada, winners of yesterday’s race, were 5th. behind the Argentines. They recovered from being 30th at the first mark.
With this race, Grael/Ferreira renewed their possibilities of winning the regatta which, until today, belonged to the French team of Rohart/Rambeau.
The competition started at 15:20 with 51 boats on the line (out of 52) and finished at 17:27, with 45 boats. The wind was from the ESE at 10-11 knots and very unstable, leading to some large difficult shifts upwind and down. The river was quite choppy.
The second upwind saw Grael/Ferreira take the lead with Rohart/Rambeau moving up to 2nd and Presti/Saliou back to 3rd, which was the finish order as they extended from the rest of the fleet. Percy/Mitchell was in 5th by the last leeward mark, but hit the mark and had to do a penalty putting them back 8 places to finish 13th.
Grael/Ferreira have not sailed the Star since September, when they won the Brazilian Championship. After that race, they sold the boat they sailed. Their new boat, which they had sailed in the Olympics, did not arrive in Brazil until January.
"We are having a good World Championship despite the difficulties at the start. We won the first race, but we felt strongly our lack of rhythm as we have not sailed for such a long time. When you are off the water for a long time, your ability fails. But we are overcoming this and concentrating on the next two races,” said Marcelo Ferreira.
"The level of competition is very high, as always happens in the Star Worlds. More than half of the races have been sailed but they are still several teams that can win. Therefore, it does not pay to have a strategy based on this or that boat. The strategy is to sail well, always," added Marcelo.
The competition also marks the first meeting of the Grael/Ferreira with Robert Scheidt, 7 time World champion in the Laser class. Scheidt is sailing his first world championship in the Star. “Robert has sailed very well. He is fast. It is what one expects of a top sailer such as he is,” Marcelo said.
The Argentines Guillermo J. Calegari and Patricio Homps abandoned racing as did the Canadians Brian Cramer and Iain Greensmith due to breaking their mast. Eduardo Soraide and Corrado Cristaldini broke a halyard. The father and son Japanese team of Tomoya Hotta and Takashi Hotta dropped out of the regatta as one of the team had to return to Japan for an emergency. The Indonesians Ramchandran and Nitin Mongia also broke their mast. Canadians Mike Milner and Matthew Johnston and Dutch Roy Heiner/Alex Breuseker were over early.
Fifth Race – February 17:
The changes of wind direction made this race the most tactical of this championship. Percy/Mitchell won by only centimeters as the top three finishers crossed the finish line within practically the same second. The next seven or eight places were not much farther apart. Xavier Rohart and Pascal Rambeau were awarded 2nd and third went to the Portuguese Afonso Domingos and Bernardo Santos, who later commented that they lost their leading position during much of the race due to the rapid directions changes in the wind. They only gave up their first place in the last leg. Torben Grael and Marcelo Ferreira finished fourth.
During most of the race Grael/Ferreiro and Rohart/Rambeau were very close to taking first. However, in the middle of racing. Percy/Mitchell started to move up and took first place by a very small margin.
Racing started at 15:20 with 51 boats on the line and finished at 17:26 with 49 boats. The wind was mainly from the SE between 8 and 10 knots and changed strength several times during the race. After the start it diminished to 7 knots, then returned at 11 knots. The changes in wind direction made themselves felt today. An AP flag was flown minutes before the start as a wind shift had made it necessary to reset the line. The wind changes during the race affected the standings of many competitors.
The unstable windsin direction rewarded those who picked the shifts well such as Bacardi Cup Champion Domingos/Santos (POR) who led around the top mark in their favourite conditions. They were followed by overall leaders Rohart/Rambeau (FRA) and Grael/Ferreira (BRA) who were inseparable all day. Percy/Mitchell rounded 7th after getting stuck a bit on the right side of the course, and made small gains on the first downwind to round 5th behind the same top 3 and Bruni/Vigna (ITA) in 4th.
The second beat saw a small increase in wind and Percy/Mitchell managed to sneak past Rohart and Bruni, while Domingos and Grael continued at the front. The second downwind had the top 4 splitting from each other, Rohart and Domingos to the right and Grael and Percy to the left. The result was a 4 abreast traffic jam at the leeward gate. Percy rounded 2nd behind Domingos, with Rohart and Grael taking the other mark.
All 4 boats crossed tacks throughout the final beat with first Grael losing ground, then Domingos relinquished the lead to Percy very near the finish. Rohart was on a charge and his speed upwind was almost enough to get Percy, both boats shooting head to wind on the line, with Percy getting the gun by half a length. During the race, 6th place overall Robert Scheidt got a Rule 42 Yellow flag penalty.
Steve Mitchell said, "I believe that we are faster downwind but the French are the fastest upwind. The Portuguese lost first place by an mistake in the final leg but first was up for grabs by anyone."
In the overalls with a discard, Rohart/Rambeau lead with 8 pts, Grael/Ferreira are second with 12pts, there is a 3 way tie for 3rd between Loof/Ekstrom (SWE), Presti/Saliou (FRA) and Percy/Mitchell with 18 pts, and 6th is Scheidt/Prada (BRA) with 24 pts. Grael needs at least a 2nd tomorrow with Rohart outside the top 2 to win, Rohart cannot finish lower than second so there may well be a match race developing between these 2 boats tomorrow. Loof, Presti or Percy need to win the race with Grael 7th or lower to beat him overall.
Sixth Race, February 18:
The three teams were far ahead of the rest of the fleet except for the Swedish team of Loof/Eckstrom who had a extraordinary race, rounding the 1st mark at 23rd position and ending the race in fourth. All four teams have previously won a Star World championship.
Race 6 and the final race for the Stars today was raced under sunny skies and winds from E/SE 120° at 8 knots at the start and building to 14 ktns by the third mark rounding. As could be expected some Stars withdrew and a port – starboard situation forced the retirement of the USA team of Bonanni and Burgess.
Xavier Rohart said, "The best race for us was today’s. We enjoyed ourselves and after the effort we put into training and coming to Buenos Aires it is enormously gratifying to have won the world championship." About his time in Buenos Aires, he said, "Good moments for us were in the mornings when Pascal and I were training, running through the streets of Vicente Lopez. In the morning it is very silent and we enjoyed the beautiful days that Buenos Aires gave us."
Pascal Rambeau added, "The most difficult competitors for us to beat in all the championship were Torben Grael and Marcelo Ferreira. They are very good for us to sail against as we are always very close in all our racing.” When asked how he was going to end his championship, Pascal responded, "I am going to eat an enormous beef chorizo".
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