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1974 World Championship - Regatta Report

1974 World's Championshi
p - Laredo, Spain
Regatta Results
Report from the 1975 Star Class Log

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'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.

First Race - Pelle Petterson
As I had been away from Star racing for quite some time it was with great eagerness that Ingvar and I sailed out to the starting line. After the tune up race the day before we sensed that we had things in pretty good shape and hoped that we had not lost too much advantage in missing the European Championship, where most of the World's entries had been able to learn about the area the previous week. The "feel" was still there, the fine temper and sensitivity that makes the Star such a great boat.

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.

Second Race - Thomas Blackaller
An early start was scheduled so that we could get two races completed. Even so, it was blowing hard for the start, between 12 and 25 knots. We got out late and didn't have time to check the line before the start. Consequently we started at the committee boat end, which was wrong by a lot! Petterson started perfectly at the leeward end and after about 5 minutes he flipped and crossed us by 200 yards. Knowles, Whipple, Wagner and almost everyone else crossed us too. However, we had good speed that day and by the weather mark only Pelle, Durward and Mario Innecco were ahead of us. We barely crossed Eckart at the mark. Nothing much happened on the reaches except we did gain a bit on Mario. At the leeward mark the first time around we were fourth. We got in gear pretty well and passed Mario, Durward and finally right up by the weather mark we got by Pelle. On the run Pelle went faster and almost but not quite passed us. The final upwind leg found us covering Petterson with him in turn covering Knowles. We finished in that order, which turned out to be the series order of finish also.

Third Race - Eckart Wagner
After the first leg Petterson, Blackaller and myself had a pretty good lead over the rest of the fleet. Our boat speeds were very equal. The three of us on the first reach were looking for the reaching mark, which was supposed to fly a balloon. But there was no mark and no balloon in sight, so we had to find it by compass. Finally we arrived just where we thought the mark ought to be, and found it about a hundred yards to weather. Since we were the most weatherly boat of the three, we had no trouble in rounding it first, and by this time the "lost mark" had put Petterson and Blackaller back into the crowd. Peter Moeckl and I were free to do what we wanted on the next weather leg, and in the heavy northwester we were able to play the shifts exactly by compass and so pulled more and more away from the fleet. I think we finally finished some 300 yards ahead of the second boat.

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.

Fourth Race - Durward Knowles
The fourth race was sailed in a light to moderate cast wind with moderate swells. All boats got of to a perfect start from an excellent line with the exception of Duarte Bello, who had to re-start and never recovered. The fleet split shortly after the start, with Blackaller and Petterson favouring the left side and Whipple leading another group to the right. Whipple came out on top to round the weather mark first, followed closely by Fernando Pombo, the local hero. Uwe von Below led the boats in from the left, followed by Pelle, Tom and others. At this point we were 9th.

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.
At the leeward mark we were still first, with Blackaller second and Whipple third. On the last leg we covered them both and finished in that order. The local population was thrilled by Pombo's performance, giving him a great ovation when he finished fourth.

Fifth Race - Heinz Nixdorf
The fifth race was, I think, one of the most curious races in the history of World's Championships. The wind was from Force 4 to Force 6, with huge seas, again from the northwest. In the lead at the first mark were the known leaders of the series thus far. The first leg had been 270°, which works out at 135° for the direction of the first reaching leg. We were back in about 15th or 16th place at that time, and to our surprise the leading boats sailed not 135° but more like 160°, very high of the course. We could not believe that all those boats would go in the wrong direction, so we compromised and headed not 135° and not 160° but midway between the two. In the direction of 160° we could see two boats but no mark, and in the direction of 135° we saw one boat and no mark. After a time the leading crews and some skippers were standing on deck, searching hard for a mark and not finding it. Then Kim Fletcher jibed and made a sharp change in direction, and we saw the buoy nearly a half mile to the left of the group, just where it was supposed to be. We followed Fletcher in second place by virtue of our leeward berth, with Josi Steinmayer and Helmut Voigt following. All the leading boats had been on the wrong course, probably because the planing reach was more exciting in that direction and also because the rough seas made the mark hard to see. The four of us thus had a fine leading position, which we maintained, to the finish. In the meantime Blackaller was struggling to overcome his second leg navigational disaster and finally passed Petterson on the last windward leg to finish 5th with Pelle a close 6th. Upon our return to the harbor we were told that Fletcher had been disqualified, and thus all the boats moved up one place and we were awarded first.

Sixth Race - Arnold Osterwaldcr
Only 35 of 51 competing yachts took the start for the sixth and final race. The three leaders after five races did not start; having no possibility of altering their series positions, and packed up their boats preparatory to travelling home. It provided a good chance therefore for some of those who do not normally appear with the topnotchers.

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.


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