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1975 World Championship - Regatta Report

1975 World's Championshi
p - Chicago, USA
Regatta Results
Report from the 1976 Star Class Log

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

"James M. (Ding) Schoonmaker, who earlier this year won the North American Championship, climaxed a 25 year career in the Star Class by capturing the 1975 Gold Star in Chicago with Jerry Ford crewing. In a fleet of 73 boats, a record surpassed only in 1966 at Kiel. Ding beat the reigning champion, Tom Blackaller, by 5 points and Peter Wright by 9, after each had dropped his worst race, which for Dingo was remarkably high, a seventh. The contestants met a variety of weather conditions but no races were washed out, all being completed without a double header. All courses were "O", with lines well set by Gary Comer's race committee. Guns were fired from a boat that hovered to windward of the middle of the line and then quietly stole away after the start. Power of recall from both ends of the line and loud hailers on all three boats kept the huge fleet under control."

What follows is a crew's eye view, written for the LOG by the winning crew of each race except the second.

First Race - Misty, John Ahlquist
The first race of a major regatta is always approached with great anticipation, and as this was my first gold star event my feelings were especially acute. It is awesome indeed to look around and see so many gold and silver stars adorning the forest of sails.
Winds were out of the south at eight to ten at the start, and they increased slightly during the race. We got a good start about tw-?thirds of the way toward the leeward end of the line and were able to break clear of the body of the fleet about half way up the first leg as there seemed to be slightly more air on the left side of the course. The importance of clear air in a fleet of seventy-three boats cannot be overestimated as we were to learn to our chagrin during the rest of the week.

We reached the first mark in fifth place following Bill Parks, Pete Bennett, Pete Wright, and Bob Ferguson. Reynolds, Nixdorf, Duplin, Burnham, and Knowles rounded out the first ten. Two reaching legs later the order of the first ten was unchanged as one might expect in steady moderate air.

During the second weather leg the wind freshened slightly and we had mini-hiking conditions for the first time. We sailed this leg tacking on small shifts but never going to the edges of the course. We arrived at the weather mark second to Parks and closely followed by Wright, Reynolds, and Knowles. John Cram made an appearance, rounding the mark in sixth place.

On the run there were some minor changes in position among the first five, but no new faces appeared as we rounded. It was Parks, Allen, Knowles, Reynolds, and Wright, while Barton Beek (7) and Dave Peterson (10) joined the top ten for the first time.
On the final leg we again avoided the extreme edges of the course, and Bill covered us loosely. About two-thirds of the way up the leg we approached Parks on port tack and were able to achieve a safe leeward. He tacked away and we followed and covered him. When Bill tacked away again we let him go as we were nearly laying mark. A lift during the last two hundred yards added to our final margin of victory. A Star boat is a beautiful sight under any circumstance, but a huge fleet of them astern is infinitely more beautiful.

Second Race - Impossible
The wind, out of the southwest at 18-20 knots, was very shifty, coming directly off the Chicago skyline. There were several general recalls because the committee boats would not hold anchor. When a proper start was finally managed, Blackaller was well away in the middle of the line. The leeward end was favored again, but Tom held starboard tack and with superior boat speed managed to clear all the boats below him except Ted Rapp, who was going very well. At the weather mark it was Rapp, with Blackaller hot on his heels. The positions didn't change for the leaders in the first triangle, but on the downwind leg Blackaller jibed inside Rapp, giving him a favored angle in to the leeward mark. After that it was Impossible all the way. Pete Bennett was second, only to be disqualified for being over the line early, giving Ted Rapp second in the race. Schoonmaker was seventh today, and Peter Wright eleventh.

Third Race - Dingo, Jerry Ford
Conditions again were light, with winds five to eight knots east-southeast. We were in second place now, with finishes of six and seven; but felt we needed something a lot stronger to solidify our position. We were going to try to start at the leeward end because it had been favored every other time, so why not now? As the boats came up on the line, we were exactly where we wanted to be, the leeward most boat, with 45 seconds to go and no one pushing us. At the thirty second mark, we realized that there was a current pushing everyone down, making a starboard tack start virtually impossible in such close quarters. We started to head down so that we could jibe around, take as few sterns as possible and go off on port tack.

Just as we were about to jibe, we saw Gene McCarthy (just off our weather quarter) go head to wind. He was determined to make the line on starboard tack and when he went up he put the brakes on the whole fleet. He opened up a four-boat-length hole at the leeward end and we took advantage of it, tacked with clear air and shot out, port tacking the whole fleet. We were moving at top speed while everyone else was fighting to get over the line. Ding asked me to call out compass readings, but I was so excited over our start it took me five minutes to stop shaking. We were out and away and two minutes after the start were seventy five yards ahead. We led all the way around and won it by three minutes and forty seconds. Blackaller, who was about twelfth at the weather mark the first time up, made a great recovery finishing second, with Bill Gerard third and Wright sixth.

Fourth Race - Virgo, William Wright
The weather for the fourth race looked perfect for my skipper with 8-10 knots of wind from the North, accompanied by comfortable waves. We chose our usual middle of the line start and shortly after tacked on a small header. The wind seemed to gradually knock the boats that went out in the lake. By sailing up the middle we managed to get around the weather mark sixth. Tom Adams was first, followed by Joe Duplin. We stayed low on both reaches, which enabled us to pass several boats. On the second beat we traded tacks with Frank Raymond to round the mark first and held the lead to the leeward mark where Schoonmaker moved into second place. On the final beat the wind picked up and Pete opened his lead to win, with Schoonmaker, Reynolds and Peterson following.

Fifth Race - Virgo, William Wright
This race started with moderate winds from the South at 8-10 knots accompanied by light chop, another day to Pete's liking. After another conservative start at the middle of that "endless" line, we worked our way up the middle to find ourselves rounding the weather mark second, with Tom Adams again leading. After the first reach the order at the jibing mark was: Bennett, ourselves, Raymond, Adams and Schoonmaker. On the second windward leg we seemed to have good boat speed and were in phase with the shifts. We rounded the mark first with Pete Bennett second, followed by a gap. On the final beat the air was light, almost none at times; luckily we did find some air to cross the line first. We learned later that we finished seven minutes ahead of Pete Bennett, the second place boat. Third was Tom Adams, with Durward Knowles fourth.

With this finish, Pete was leading the World's Championship by one point. Unbelievable!

Sixth Race - Dingo, Jerry Ford
Chicago's famous northeaster had come in across the lake. It was blowing fifteen to twenty knots with five to ten foot seas, raining, with no signs of it breaking up.

We got out to the starting line one hour early so we could get a good feel for the boat in the heavy weather. As we reached up and down the line, ourselves and Blackaller were giving each other the hawkeye, trying to psyche each other out. Tom was happy with this breeze and we were looking forward to sailing a strong race. We started at the weather end just below Blackaller, and immediately knew we had speed. We came off the blocks two to one on everyone around us. We looked back and we had Tom on our starboard quarter and he wasn't going at all. We couldn't find Wright anywhere so we figured he was buried somewhere at the leeward end of the line. By the time we got to the weather mark, we were in fourth place and as soon as we were around the mark we blew right through Pete Bennett and Bill Gerard's lee, riding on a beautiful ten foot sea. At the first reaching pin, we didn't quite have an overlap on Jim Allsopp, who was leading the race so we rounded behind him. Half way down the second reaching leg we got a good blast of wind and a big wave all at once and sailed over Allsopp for the lead. From this point on we continued to increase our lead. We rounded the weather mark the second time and flew downwind, riding those big seas and really feeling good. At the leeward pin, we had about a hundred yards on Allsopp and noticed that Blackaller was sailing through the pack. We were very much at ease though, because we knew Tom would have to put four boats in between us to win and that didn't look as if it was going to happen.

So we came across the line in the rain and wind, wet and cold and happy to be World Champions.