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1968 North American Championship - Regatta Report

1968 North American Championshi
p - San Francisco
Regatta Results
Report from Starlights, October 1968

Note: This report has been scanned in by Ed Sprague. For a collection of Worlds' reports plus photographs contact Ed Sprague ( ejspraguejr@mac.com ) to order his book "The San Diego Bay Star Fleet".

Tom Blackaller won his second Silver Star of the year at this North American's, Wennerstrom, Lewsadder next at San Francisco

In a year when there was no Gold Star series, the 1968 North American Championship could hardly have been outdone by a World's in calibre of competition, quality of race management, and splendor of the full scale shore preparations and facilities. Thomas Blackaller won his second 1968 Silver Star, and the runner-up was another Silver Star holder, 1967 European Champion Stig Wennerstrom. These two battled it out all week with Charles Lewsadder always very close behind for third.

San Francisco Bay, off Berkeley, produced winds of 18-25 knots for the first race and then somewhat less during the rest of the week but always fairly steady from the southwest. There was a prevalent starboard tack lift near the windward mark that made the port tack popular after the start, but otherwise no major shifts or upsets. Chairman Frank Gordon's race committee operated from a large power yacht belonging to Vice Commodore Schoonmaker of the St. Francis Yacht Club, completely equipped with all radio aids including radar with which to set the marks. All boats hauled out after every race at the San Francisco Yacht Club at Belvedere.
The pace was set in the opener by Blott X and Good Grief with Don Trask's Swingin' Star third. But for a disastrous 20th the next day, the 1966 North American title holder was always among the top contenders. Ralph De Luca's Homer caused a mixup at the first weather mark and withdrew, and the resulting protests by the others involved were disallowed. This was the only protest incident of the entire week, thanks in part to long and square starting lines.

The outcome of the series was in doubt until the last windward leg of the last race. There was a different winner every day, but Blackaller, with the outstanding score of three seconds and a first, entered the final race with a five point lead. At the end of one round this was not enough: the port tack, for once, failed to pay off, and he found himself 9th at the first mark with Wennerstrom second. But the second time upwind he and Gary Mull pulled Good Grief up to 5th while Blott X was dropping to 4th, and the new champion was home.

Bill Lynn supplied the following write-up to the 1969 Star Class Log:

Star class collection: 1968 North Americans, San Francisco
Hannah, Barton Beek and Ron Anderson, in a breeze

The series was a battle between two giants; there seemed, from the beginning, to be little doubt that it would go to Tom Blackaller, of the host West San Francisco Bay Fleet, or Stig Wennerstrom, who came from the Kattegatt Fleet, in Sweden, expressly to participate in this series. Blackaller had already won a Silver Star in 1968 at New Orleans, and although he was only eighth in the 1967 World's at Kopenhagen, he had a daily first there. Wennerstrom's record was even more impressive: the 1967 Championship of Europe and North Africa and the 1968 Spring Championship of Europe accounted for the two Silver Stars already won. In addition, Wennerstrom's whirlwind 1968 campaign included winning the national championships of France, Germany and Sweden, and runner-up position in the Tenth District championship.

Despite all this, credit should not be taken away from Chuck Lewsadder, whose 1-3-3 in the last three races brought him within a point of Wennerstrom.

Don Trask, the 1966 title-holder in this series, was not quite up to the terrific pace set by these three. It has been suggested that he lost the series because of the fiberglass peeling off his rudder in the second race; but the fact is that even had he been first or second in that race, all other scores the same, he would not have won the Silver Star.

The top seven boats seemed to have the edge on all the others throughout the week. Blackaller put it bluntly. "If you're not with the top seven, you're not fast".

Pete Bennett, who began the series with a flat jib for San Francisco breezes was not happy with his record after three races and shifted back to his full cut San Diego model. With it, he led the fourth race until the jib tack let go, and then took a first by a good margin in the fifth race. "With the full jib we could point five degrees higher," he remarked.

Most California boats had their masts all the way aft, with the booms hanging an inch or so over the transom. This did not appear to create any undue weather helm.

The race course was one-sided. Every day it paid to get on to the port tack early and proceed to the lay line before tacking back. Boat speed to be able to get in there was essential. There was perhaps slightly smoother water and a big starboard tack lift at the end.

1969 Star Class Log, Photo: Diane Beeston
1968 North American's: Eugene Corley and Steve Heater in #5218, Addiction; St. Francis Y.C. Vice Commodore Peter Schoonmaker and J. Jenson in #4331, Music II

Race Committee communications were ideal. Courses were planned, set out and controlled by radio. The committee was also in radio contact with several government weather sources before and during the races. On the last day, for example, there seemed to be enough wind to start a race, but the committee delayed. The mystified contestants were unaware that the committee had information that a 90 degree shift and a stronger wind were about to come in. When they came, the race was started in the new breeze.

About 13 rigs went out in the heavy weather of the tune-up and the first race. All of these were either old heavy rigs, old tired light rigs, or brand new light rigs that had just been installed with no chance for adjustment. No light, properly tuned rigs went by the board.

All the top boats carried make-up weight to meet the minimum. Of the top people, champions Blackaller and Mull were perhaps the lightest skipper-crew combination. All leading crews hiked by sitting up, hanging on to the backstay, and virtually all skippers sat up also.

My general impression is of a great series, splendid sailing, fabulous parties at all of which all skippers and crews were the guests of the sponsoring fleet and yacht clubs, beautiful silver and crystal prizes, and as an extra bonus every contestant and official came away with a magnum of champagne courtesy of Paul Masson Wines. Both the San Francisco and the St. Francis Yacht Clubs set a standard that will be hard for any silver, or even gold, Star series to match.

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