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1977 World Championship - Regatta Report

1977 World's Championshi
p - Kiel
Regatta Results
Report from the 1978 Star Class Log by Frank Gordon

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".

Talking with Dennis Conner and Ron Anderson after the final banquet at the Kieler Yacht Club gave one the impression of a team of very competent Star sailors who had dedicated themselves last summer by training and diet to winning the World's at Kiel, who were both quietly happy that they had accomplished their objective and extremely proud of the way that they had done it. The principal ingredient in the mix of what caused their success was magnificent boat handling.

Not since 1954, when Vice-Commodore Carlos de Cardenas and his son, Carlos Jr., won the World's at Cascias with four firsts and a second, has the Class seen such dominance at the Gold Star event. After an eleventh in the first race because they were on the wrong side of a wind shift, Dennis and Ron took five straight firsts. Although they did not have to sail, having an unbreakable grip on first place after five races, they came out and easily outpaced the 79 other starters for the sixth and final contest.

This World's set another record: 87 entries from 19 nations, in both hemispheres and all six continents. It is fortunate that Otto Schlenzka and his crew at the Kiel-Schilksee Olympiahafen can handle numbers like this. Our last World's at Kiel in 1966 set the previous record of 78 Stars, also from 19 nations.

When I arrived Wednesday afternoon I found measuring in full swing, in charge of Friedrich Krieger, a member of our Measurement Committee. Sails were being checked in one of the large Olympiahafen halls. The measurers had built two elevated tables, about waist high, with compo-board tops, one for jibs and one for mains. Control points were laid out in black tape on the white tops, making the measuring procedure simple. Compare a standing position folding a main at waist height to measure the cross dimension with the backbreaking task of bending over to determine the mid-luff and mid-leach positions on 174 mainsails! Many of the jibs of two American sailmakers had common or related problems: reinforcement of the corners and placement of the sailmaker's patch violated I.Y.R.U. Rules. They were rejected until rebuilt.

Outside, Krieger had a powerful hoist truck with a scale, to which the boats were rolled on their trailers with rig in place. He had an ingenious series of aluminum jigs to measure point "B", boom length, rudder shape and thickness, etc. Without these aids the large number of entries never could have been checked before the first race. Principal problems were some rudders and keel plates that were too thick, and boats without flotation certificates, which were tested before being allowed to compete.

Bill Parks and I examined a new design keel from California on a Star shipped from the States. Its deviation from the plans was obvious, but nevertheless it had been passed previously because of the impossibility of the Chief Measurer's being able to see and measure such innovations personally. It was determined to allow the boat to compete, and to present the problem to the I.G.C. When the I.G.C. met immediately after the Series, it instructed the President to notify the builder of the questioned keels to cease building them and also to notify owners with Stars equipped with the keels that their certificates were suspended until certain specified corrections were made.

The other measuring problem involved some Swedish Stars where an extension of the forward portion of the keel flange created a "V" shape in the bottom. The builder was informed that his hull mould must be corrected and that the boats already built would have to be ground down to specified contour and arc.

John McKeage wrote, "I was impressed with the very high quality of all of the new boats from six different builders. The fittings and deck layouts were fairly uniform. The competition among these skilled builders is keen and the sailors are the winners. The choice of the Star for Olympic competition makes sense: sailors from eight different nations finished in the top ten."

Thursday night the British Kiel Yacht club invited the contestants to a supper party at its clubhouse in the German Naval Base at Holtenau. It was the first party of the regatta and gave the competitors a chance to get together over English ale and India curry to renew old friendships and talk about the coming week.

Tune-up race, annual meeting, opening ceremony
The racing area was charted west and southwest of Kiel light, out of shipping channels. After a skippers' meeting outside the regatta office, most headed for a quick lunch at one of the many restaurants dotting the Olympic facility and then sailed out for the Tune-up Race. Even a special buoy with a white flag in the middle of the line could not hold back the over-eager fleet. With 30 seconds to go they were in a perfect line - all over. A series of general recalls gave the Race Committee and the skippers practice in starting, to no avail. The Committee finally cancelled the race when the time limit reached into darkness. It was just as well, for the wind disappeared shortly thereafter and the Stars had to be towed in. The skippers who did not come out no doubt had the better of it and more time for bottom polishing.

Saturday saw measuring completed and 87 Stars afloat and neatly lined up in assigned mooring spaces. The Annual Meeting was reported in Starlights for November and December 1977. Most of the discussion concerned proposed adjustments to the scoring system and the perennial debate over the best way both to make a Star float and to find out if an individual Star will float. President Parks' report of a surge in membership was welcomed with applause.

At the opening ceremonies on the plaza we were welcomed by the governmental leaders of the state of Schleswig-Holstein and the City of Kiel. Otto Schlenzka, race committee chairman and master of ceremonies, addressed the sailors and a large spectator crowd in both English and German. President Parks responded to our German hosts in the German language, a creditable accomplishment for an American who is not a linguist by profession or preference. The flags of the 19 nations and of ISCYRA were raised with customary Star Class precision.

A champagne party on the expansive lawns between the Olympic apartments and the docks rounded out the day. Although the morning had seen scudding clouds and driving rain, by noon it had cleared with a definite sign of changing weather on a rising barometer. We toasted the prospect of six days of fair breezes.

First Race
The weather map looked tricky and so it was to be. Because of the difficulty in setting the advisory mark in the middle of the line the committee abandoned it. Even so, there was only one general recall. It was blowing maybe 4-6 knots out of the NNW, with no significant wave action. On the recalled start Sune Carlsson had been near the Committee Boat. After the recall, he stood up on deck, looked around, saw some dark water to the west, and headed for the pin. Those familiar with the fact that Sune is no stranger to Kiel who saw his maneuver followed, including Calle Pettersson who is from the same fleet and had crewed for Sune when they won the Championship of Sweden a month earlier.

Sune, Mogens Nielsen from Denmark, Stefan Winberg from Stockholm and Calle all held a long starboard tack. About fifteen minutes after the start the wind went counter-clockwise 40 degrees and picked up to about 10 knots. The shift was not consistent over the whole course; some boats being affected left side it meant an easy tack to the first held first place to the finish. Nielsen was on the second beat; he slid into second on the run and held on to that spot. Weinberg went from third to 10th on the final beat of the Olympic Course, and Calle Petersson who had vacillated between fourth and fifth received the beep for third.

Meanwhile two U.S. favorites and the only former World's champs in the series, Ding Schoonmaker and Dennis Conner, were down the drain. However, the last leg was a portent of things to come: Dennis came up from 35th to finish 11th. Ding had no such magic and gained only a couple of places to finish 34th.

John McKcague commented as follows: "If you don't get loose at the start with 87 boats you might s well sail over and visit with the spectator fleet. The starting lines were approximately 700 meters long. The slightest wind shift could spell doom if you were on the wrong side, unless your name was Dennis Conner. The 11th place finish by Dennis and his super crew was to me the most impressive performance of the series, partly because it was the only time all week that I would see them on the racecourse. The major wind shift gave a lot of skippers their throw-out race only minutes after the start. Dennis was around 50th at the first windward mark. As we watched him advance through the fleet we knew he had something extra, but little did we realize how much he would dominate the remaining races. After all, Sune Carlsson won the first race by a large margin, with Mogens Nielsen second and Calle Pettersson third. It looked as if it might be a Scandinavian series."

Ding and Chuck Beek both protested the Race Committee for not abandoning the race because of the wind shift. After long deliberation, the Jury concluded that the Race Committee had not violated the Rules, and that to cancel the race and direct that it be re-sailed would be unfair to those contestants who had finished well up in the standings, an imbalance prohibited by Rules 68.5 (b) and 70.5.

Sunday night the contestants and officials were guests for dinner at the various homes of members of the Kiel Fleet. The freaky wind gave them much to discuss!

Second Race
On the way out to the start, Commodore E. 0. Ahlers, senior member of the Jury, and an old hand at Kiel events, remarked that 11:30 a.m. was too early for a start in Kielerbucht. He said that the wind did not usually settle down until 1230 or 1300 hours. The vibrations must have carried over to the Committee Boat. Although they set up a line for the start to the north, they kept the red and white postponement flag displayed. The winds got lighter and lighter.

"The Commodore's forecast was a wind from our backs, from Kiel harbor. At 12:45 we saw it coming. The Committee set up a new line and, after a general recall got the fleet off to a good start in 8-10 knots of breeze, again with no appreciable sea. Five Stars that did not heed the "round-the-ends" rule were disqualified.

A slight current out of Kiel Harbor sometimes can be lee-bowed. Whether they did it with the current, Dennis and Ron took a long starboard leg and arrived at the weather mark first, followed by Valentin Mankin from the Moscow Fleet and Uwe von Below from Hamburg. This was as their order at every succeeding mark and at the finish. Nielsen from Denmark was fourth at mark one, then took a dive to 15th on the reaches, fought his way back to 8th on the second beat and seventh at the finish.

The classiest performance was put on by Schoonmaker, sailing in a chartered boat belonging to Josi Steinmayer who was his crew. After a bad start, which saw them 11th at the weather mark, they moved up to 9th on the second reach, then to 5th on the second beat. On the last beat they nosed out Calle Pettersson to finish 4th. At the end of the second race Calle led the series with a 3rd and a 5th.

At an informal beer party in the Press bar that night we were shown some movies of the 1966 World's. It was nostalgic but revealed that we all seem to have put on weight.

Third Race
Tuesday the wind was blowing from the east at about seven knots, 2-3 Beaufort. It was more 2 than 3. Dennis and Ron went up the right side and came out ahead again at the first mark. De Souza Ramos from Sao Paulo, Ding, and Hartmut Voigt from Kiel followed Dennis around the first triangle in that order, but Dennis was the only one who held his position consistently to the finish. De Souza Ramos was passed by Ding on the second beat, and then dropped to 5th and finally 7th. Sune Carlsson went from 6th to 3rd at the end of the run, just behind Ding. In their respective efforts to shake loose and to cover on the last windward leg, they let Voigt through to a second. Paul Louie, from English Bay, sailed his best race of the week, going steadily from 13th at the first weather mark to finish just behind Sune. The performance suited the numbers on his sail which last year at Nassau belonged to Tom Blackaller.

On Tuesday night we loaded into busses and went to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Prey at Gut Westensee for a fabulous party. The house, large enough to be a college dormitory, stood on several acres on a peninsula jutting out into the lake, with flower and produce gardens, barns, and the like. A bright moon was challenged by hidden floods lighting gnarled and twisted trees and by a row of large candle torches leading to a huge bonfire by the edge of the lake. Between them and the house, on wooden platforms, were three large soup barrels and tables and chairs, a typical Schleswig feast. Floods were turned on, and the trophies for the first three races presented. Sune received the George Elder Trophy for the first race and Dennis the Paul Smart Clock for the second race and the Vanderveer Trophy because he was now leading the series with 251 points to 242 for Carlsson. Daily 1, 2, and 3 for skipper and crew were also presented by Bill Parks.

The evening settled down to some quiet wine sipping and some wild swinging on a dance floor in the grand entrance hall of the mansion. No one wanted to go home when Wednesday showed up - but the fourth race was coming up with no rest day between.

Fourth Race
On a hazy day with visibility of perhaps a couple of miles, it was blowing about 9 knots from the northeast; but the clear sky overhead presaged the lifting of the fog. The first three Stars at the weather mark were the first three in that order at the end of the series two days later. Next were Heinz Maurer of Interlaken and Hubert Raudaschl of the Haydn Fleet in Austria. These five paraded around the course without changing positions. Peter Tallberg looked as though he would also hold a steady sixth, but was nosed out on the last beat by Peter Wyss, who had worked his way up from 10th.

Disappointing were the showings of Bill Parks, who went from 8th to 7th and then dropped to 14th on the final leg, and that of Istvan Telegdy from Budapest who went from 7th at mark one to 13th at the finish. On the other hand, Ding, with that uncanny ability to bounce back, climbed from 15th up to 8th. As Parks put it: "We sure went the wrong way and Ding sure didn't."

Fifth Race
Just like the day before, it was "smoky" when we went out to the start, but clearing was once more predicted as the easterly breeze went up to 8-9 knots. At this direction, the Kiel harbor current can make a difference. Dennis headed for the beach, trailed by Andrzei Kochanski and Tomasz Holc of Casablanca, Flavio Scala, Ding, and Telegdy. They stayed in that order to the end of the second beat, laid out to a new mark on a 20' wind shift. On the run the wind played more tricks. Kochanski dropped to 9th, Scala to 5th, and Telegdy to 6th. Sune Carlsson, 11th at the first mark, was now second behind Dennis, and Uwe von Below who had been 8th was now third.

At this point, with the last windward leg to go, Dennis clamped a tight cover on Sune, his only series challenger. When their tacking duel was over Sune was back around 10th and Denis not much better. Dennis and Kochanski both started to fly, and clawed their way back up to the top. About 250 yards from the finish Kochanski had a slight lead over Dennis, to leeward, on port tack. Neither could make the mark. Dennis tacked, and Kochanski tacked on top of him, but the game was over. The Californians gradually pulled ahead, finishing a few seconds in the lead. In the previous three races Dennis had won by a little better than 2 minutes, but not this time. His maneuver, however, was successful: Sune finished 8th. With the dropout, it was now mathematically impossible for Sune, or anyone else, to beat Dennis and Ron in the series.

Peter Tallberg was third in the race, having gone from 6th to 10th on the reaches. Behind him was Telegdy, and then Ding who dropped one boat on the final beat.

After the race there was a beer and schnapps party at the docking area, with a beer barrel band for accompaniment. Everyone had calculated the standings, and Conner and Anderson ended up in the harbor. It wasn't easy and took about six men each time.

Sixth Race
A perfect day for Star racing. Fifteen knots out of the NNW, with some waves, and a crystal clear atmosphere with occasional cotton-balls of cumulus clouds. After the usual bad first start, they got off with a really good straight line. The Jury had suggested trying the middle mark again after the third race. It seemed to be a real help on the last three days.

Seven boats did not start, and another seven did not finish. Dennis and Ron were not among either listing. With what seemed an effortless fluid motion as they went through their tacking maneuvers, they sailed up the side of the fleet, popped over, and rounded the weather mark with a clear lead of 150 meters. Second was Uwe Mares of the home fleet, and third was Valentin Mankin. These three held the same positions throughout the race. Fourth was Uwe von Below, followed by Barton Beek in his best showing of the week, despite what sounded like double pneumonia. Von Below finished the triangle in fourth, and then dropped to 12th, being passed on the last leg by Barton's son Chuck, who rounded successively 6-7-6-5-10-11. De Souza Ramos, who took his place at 6th, came all the way up from below 20th.

Meanwhile, Ding, who had a shot at series second with Sune wavering between 21st and 17th and finally dropping back to 21st, had rounded the home mark for the last beat in 9th place, just behind von Below. At one point in their struggle with each other up the final leg Ding was ahead of Uwe. But other boats on starboard came along and allowed Uwe to tack out from under the former champ, Ding took 14th and series 4th, with Uwe tied with Sune in points and wins over each other. The tie for series second was broke by Sune's first.

All of this sounds like fluky conditions. But not for Dennis Conner and Ron Anderson. They rounded the home mark at the end of the run with a lead of one minute fifty seconds. They finished with a lead over Uwe Mares of four minutes forty-two seconds!
Remember that they were sailing a chartered boat built in Germany. Dennis sheets his main from the transom to the boom-end and then forward and down to the post. The mechanical advantage is about 1 ¼ to 1. With any breeze, he and Ron really have to horse in the main sheet. Two obvious advantages are less sheet to run through blocks during the reach and when jibing, and downward pressure on the partly flexible boom end to tighten the leach in place of jumper control. The main was cut with a short leach, which also permitted a lot of rake. Bill Buchan says Dennis beats with the jib at 8° or 9°.

This type of sail trimming makes for extra heeling moment which is counteracted by Dennis and Ron by mini-hiking with some 40-50 pounds added to each of their body weights by simply eating themselves into balloon shapes during the spring and summer. It was noticed that, in the last race, with the series locked up, and the breeze somewhat stronger, Dennis used the conventional traveler rig at the stern, with the extra part.

After the series, Barton Beek posed these questions: "Why is Dennis so fast? Nobody knows yet, maybe not even Dennis. Is it just weight? Dennis and Ron are very heavy; the heaviest combination since the Edlers; but their speed seems as impressive in moderate and light air as in stronger breezes. Is it the extra rake? Dennis' mast is raked much more than anyone's has been for many years. Is it the very straight mast? Dennis is keeping the lower part of his mast straight, presumably with a lot of lever pressure. This is easy to copy; the super-rake isn't so easy to copy because you have to change your sheeting system. Perhaps the combination of the newer sail shapes with the extra straight, very raked mast has produced an overall faster sail plan that we didn't know about before?"
Friday night saw the final prize giving, banquet, and formal dance in the Great Hall of the Kieler Yacht Club. Again, Otto Schlenzka addressed the contestants and guests in English and German, President Parks responding in both languages. Dennis and Ron, of course, took all the remaining permanent trophies as well as the daily firsts for the last three races.