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{1980 World Championship - Regatta Report}

1980 World Championship - Rio de Janeiro
By Ernie Hanmer
Complete results

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".

The 1980 Star Class World's Championship was held in February in Rio de Janeiro. From measuring, on Wednesday February 20th, through the end of the trophy banquet on Saturday March 1st it is hard to imagine a more perfect event. The Iate Clube do Rio de Janeiro is among the largest yacht clubs in the world and its every facility was put at our disposal, wrapped in a lush tropical paradise.

Tom Blackaller won his second World's Championship against fierce competition and overcoming some other obstacles along the way.

The tune-up race of Friday, February 22, was a tune?up more for the race committee than for the contestants. Murphy's Law was in full effect: everything that could go wrong did go wrong. First, there were twelve supposedly competing Stars in Rio, but still in the hands of the shipping company, which seemed most reluctant to turn them loose. They were promised for Wednesday, also Thursday, and again Friday morning. The tune-up race start was postponed for an hour in the hope that some of the twelve could make it; but no such luck. Then someone forgot to take down the postponementflag at the club, which required an additional postponement at the start to allow for the 2 ½ hour time between the lowering of AP and the attention signal. This postponement was signalled at about starting time, so that some contestants thought it was a general recall, not allowed by the sailing instructions. After another half hour the boats were rounded up and back at the start again. More problems with flags, halyards, guns, etc., but finally the race got away, an abbreviated affair ending at the second weather mark, but indeed a tune-up race. Some of the pre-race favorites dropped out or did not sail. The frequently mentioned jinx of winning the tune-up race appeared to be in operation again: Axel Schmidt of Rio won the tune up in No. 5895, a beautiful wood creation, but did not reappear above 21st until the last race when he was 13th. The day, a picture postcard of sun, gentle breezes, blue water and lots of Stars, was a harbinger of things to come. Every day for the next week the wind was within a few degrees of 130°; the course could nearly have been left set for the whole week. It was difficult to tell one day from another.

The annual meeting, flag raising and opening ceremonies were held on Saturday. President Malin Burnham presided over a lightly attended meeting. He reported on the financial good health of the Class; 1978 and 1979 were our two best years for new boats and we have nearly 1800 boats actively racing around the world. The International Race Committee was ratified for the series. It was announced that the 1981 World's would be in Marblehead, Massachusetts, 1982 in Holland and 1983 probably in southern California. Five Resolutions were approved and sent on for vote by the membership on the next Class-wide ballot. It was announced that all 54 boats had been measured for the series. Then a touching appeal by twice World's Champion Walter von Hütschler for a return to friendship and sportsmanship in the Star Class was followed by adjournment.

Peter Siemsen, representing the host club, introduced President Burnham who officially opened the regatta by announcing the thirteen competing nations as their flags were raised on the twin piers opposite the club house while the 54 Stars at their moorings formed an impressive backdrop. Fernando Duarte, Commodore of the l.C.R.J., added his welcome, and the event was under way. The first activity was a reception and cocktail party around the huge fresh water swimming pool, better described as a rectangular lake with an island.

First Race
Otto Schlenzka, vice chairman of the IRC and chairman of the racing committee, had worked out all of his problems of equipment and procedure with the help of Suzanna Redig and Harry Adler. As an example of only one of a list of his requests that were immediately taken care of, a second mast was added to the committee boat with the necessary extra halyards. Due to a radio communication problem the attention signal at 1300 hours was delayed to 1305. It looked as if maybe Murphy with his Law was still with us; but that was the last signal of the week that was not precisely on time.

The first race got away to a beautiful start with the boats spread evenly along a perfectly square and amply long line. Three boats were over early. Alexander Hagen of West Germany was spotted by the race committee at the pin end, and Dennis Conner, World's Champion in 1971 and 1977, was called over from the starting vessel. This was to prove very costly to both, as Hagen was first to finish the race with Conner second, of course at least in part because of the initial advantage gained by starting prematurely. With the disqualification of those two, Blackaller, who was third across the finish line, moved up to first which gave him the Elder Trophy and a lead he never relinquished.

The entire fleet went to the left, more or less to the port tack lay line. A shear between the muddy water from the harbor carried east on the ebb tide and the clear blue ocean water gave the leftmost boats a boost; then after tacking to port a slight lift from the wind added to the importance of this course. It was thought that this situation might last through the week, and it almost did. Only on the last day was there a noticeable change, when boats to the right did better.

Hagen, later this year to become North American Silver Star champion, led all the way to the finish with Trygve Liljestrand, the other premature starter, close behind for the first round. Blackaller was in and out of third during the entire race, with Fravezzi fighting his way out of the pack to finish behind Blackaller, and Valentin Mankin of Kiev, Russia, next. As the race progressed the wind increased slightly to about 15 knots at the finish, 2 furs. 40 min. after the start. Daniel Adler broke his mast at the deck just before rounding the leeward mark, due to a hardware failure. 1969 champion Pelle Petterson retired when the forestay sheave box failed and the deck was being sawn down the middle.

Second Race
Today was a carbon copy of yesterday except that the wind was a little stronger from the same direction, 15 knots at the start and maybe 20 with big seas at the finish, sunny and clear. Today saw an all clear start with the boats lined up very well and a sag in the middle of the line. The sailing instructions specified that there would be no general recalls and that the race committee would give a single sound signal and fly code flag X for individual recall but not call numbers or otherwise notify individual boats that they were over. The "round the ends" rule helps some; but the real bite that guarantees great caution on the part of the skippers is not calling the numbers Nobody wants his bow to stick out an inch ahead of anybody else's.

Fravezzi led at the first mark with Gorla second and Blackaller third, then Peter Wright, Scala, Barton Beek and Eduardo Ramos. The battle raged on with Fravezzi holding the lead to finish in 2 furs. 12 min. and take the Paul Smart Trophy, with Blackaller right astern, Hagen pulling up to third, and Gorla slipping to fourth. As the breeze piped up various mishaps caused nine to be recorded "did not finish. " Daniel Adler experienced his second broken mast in two days; Hans Fendt of West Germany was swamped, but bailed out without further problem.

Third Race
This is getting monotonous: the days are all alike, beautiful, wind approximately 130 about 12 knots, same bright sunshine. This time there are three boats over early and disqualified and one other who returned around the leeward end and re-started. Today it is Flavio Scala's turn to show his speed, leading Blackaller all the way to the finish, while Tom showed that consistent seconds are the kind of thing that wins World's for any other) championships. Gasto Brun, Wennerstrom and Gorla stayed ahead of Fravezzi who took sixth for his throwout, a remarkably high worst race.

At the end of the third race the series begins to take shape. Blackaller is leading to win the trophy in memory of Bud Vanderveer. Fravezzi is 8.7 points behind him in second. Scala (third), Gorla (fourth) and Mankin (fifth) are bunched within a two point spread.
Tuesday evening saw the entire group gather around the pool for a buffet dinner and entertainment. Unfortunately I can't report on it because the judges were tied up at a protest hearing that did not end until 11 p.m.

Fourth Race
The fourth race started on time and all clear. Conner took the start at the flag end and led the fleet going to the left, and at the weather mark had everybody tucked away except Barton Beek who was first around. Scala was third and the ever present Blackaller fourth Fravezzi eighth. Conner passed Beek on the first reach and Wennerstrom passed Blackaller. Conner led to the finish to win the Harry G. Nye Trophy, time 2 ¼ hours. Blackaller moved up to finish third, passing Wennerstrom who was fourth. Peter Wright, fifth for his best day, edged out Fravezzi. Blackaller now looked very solid with about 15 points on Fravezzi, but the series was not over yet.

That evening the fleet was divided into two groups, one half the guests of Peter Siemsen at his home and the other half going to Harry Adler's, both lovely parties with cocktails, dinner and good fun for all. In order to avoid missing the party as we had the night before, we put off the day's protests until the next morning.

Fifth Race
As usual the race started on time, all clear in 8-10 knots of breeze from the accustomed direction. Again Conner hit the leeward end right on the gun and again most of the fleet went up the left side of the course. Two hours and 16 minutes later Scala had won his second race, the only skipper to take two firsts in this regatta. Fravezzi was second, Gorla third, Wagner fourth and Blackaller fifth, his worst race so far and under protest. However he survived the protest and seems almost sure of victory, only Fravezzi can beat him by getting a I or a 2 if Tom doesn't do well; but Fravezzi is capable of winning any race, as he has shown this week. Dennis Conner lost his jib and limped home 34th under main alone.

Sixth Race
The last race was not quite a facsimile of the previous five. More boats successfully worked the right side of the course. For the fourth time this week there were no premature starters, but this time the windward end was the crowded one. Pelle Petterson was by himself at the leeward end and it didn't work. Blackaller and Fravezzi were distracted with each other near the weather end, Scala in the middle, Wright and Conner heading left then tacking back across the fleet. At the first mark Conner was in the lead with Hagen second then Gorla, Wennerstrom, Fravezzi, Scala and Blackaller. The wind at 15 knots for the start came on to about 18, with super surfing on the reaching legs, picking up even more to 20 or so. The race committee reported an occasional gust to 25 in the final legs of the race.

Positions changed rapidly on the reaches, Hagen going from second to fourth and Fravezzi dropping from 5th to 10th at the end of the first round with Blackaller still in 7th place. But now suspense heightens as the top of Blackaller's mast breaks at the hounds. Fravezzi has a chance: he has two beats and a run to move from tenth to second to win the series. Hans Prechter of West Germany also lost his spar at the hounds and two more went at the spreaders as the breeze increased. Conner continued to lead all the way until Gorla nipped him just at the finish line to win his first race, the Parkman Bowl, and series third. Fravezzi pulled up, but only to fifth, for a solid series second. Scala took 9th for series fourth: 8th would have given him third.

It's all over but the shouting. No protests in the last race. Blackaller with his stub mast is towed to the club where he and Dave Shaw are shown the good cheer of all by being thrown into the harbor and dowsed with champagne.

Saturday March 1 was the day for unwinding and packing up to go home. The trophy presentation party at the pool was the premier affair of the week, of course. The trophies mentioned earlier were given out, Dave Shaw was awarded the Mary Etchells Trophy for the winning crew, and then he and Tom Blackaller received the historic World's Championship Trophy. The contestants were individually introduced and presented with their mementos. After dinner we were treated to a demonstration by a Samba school, noisy, fast and fun. The members of the group selected a few of the audience for instantaneous Samba lessons, and somehow Tom Blackaller was rewarded for his participation and enthusiasm by being tossed into the pool, only to be joined by some others who got to close to the edge. Thus ended a tremendous week.

It is difficult to imagine a better week of sailing. Otto Schlenzka set practically perfect lines every time, which was a prime contributor to four all clear starts in six races. Only seven boats were over early in six races; and the races started on time, one start per day. It doesn't hurt to have good luck, and the Stars had that too with ideal weather conditions all week long.
It is going to be hard to top or even equal this regatta. Maybe we'll not have to wait 20 years again to return to Rio for a World's Championship. On the race course the series was probably best summarized as pure boat speed. International Governing Committee President Bill Parks asked the race committee whether they could please come up with something tricky because he was having trouble with so many honest races. In addition to the great racing and fabulous hospitality, Rio measured up to our highest expectations of breathtaking scenery, including the beaches and the bathing beauties.