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{1981 World Championship - Regatta Report}

1981 World Championship - Rio de Janeiro
By Ernie Hanmer (From the 1982 Star Class Log)
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".

In a cliff hanger that wasn't decided until near the end of the final race, Alexander Hagen and Vincent Hoesch of West Germany finally pulled it out to win the 1981 Star Class World Championship in September at Marblehead, Massachusetts. In a variety of conditions from drifters to blasters the 84 entries got the full treatment. There was too much of a lot of things: tidal currents, shifting winds, broken masts, long days on the water and Stars that broke their mooring strings merrily careening through a crowded anchorage. All this was mixed with a marvelously organized program arranged by the members and friends of Eastern Yacht Club at Marblehead. The Eastern ranks among the oldest and most prestigious clubs. One hundred ten years of history includes America's Cup involvement and all the rest of the best of yachting.

There is no Star Fleet currently sailing out of Marblehead; but from the beginning of measurement September 14 through the final race Saturday September 26 the club and its facilities were entirely devoted to the Stars. One would have thought they never did anything else, so well were they organized. The measurement went smoothly, with the usual problems with sails, rudders, etc., and then to the end of the pier and a final drop off the edge of the world into the harbor and off to a mooring for the week. No haul outs, and almost no complaining about it.

The tune-up race Friday Sept. 1 8th gave the contestants and the race committee a chance to get acquainted with each other and with their own problems. Naturally the wind died to a drifter so no conclusion was reached.

Saturday greeted us with a gale of wind and pouring rain for the flag raising ceremony in front of the club, overlooking the harbor. Welcoming remarks by Eastern Yacht Club Commodore Stephen Connolly and Star Class President Malin Burnham were followed by a telegram from Senator Edward Kennedy addressed "Dear Don" to Don Blodgett, Regatta Chairman, expressing regrets at missing the ceremony. The Marblehead Artillery in full Revolutionary battledress sloshed to their cannon and fired a couple of rounds from the three pounder. I probably imagined the sound of breaking glass across the half mile wide harbor. A Dixieland band played as the flags of the various nations represented were raised. In spite of the weather, it was a colorful enjoyable opening ceremony followed by a chowder buffet in the clubhouse. A well attended and spirited annual meeting of the Class was held later

First Race
Sunday, September 20, the day of the first race, saw the wind continue to blow fresh about twenty five knots at the start. Binkhorst of Holland drew first blood, leading the race at the first mark, with Joe Zambella, a local entry from Boston next, followed closely by Melges, the 1978-79 Champ, Blackaller the 1980 Champ, and Barton Beek. On the reach Melges and Blackaller moved into the lead with Binkhorst dropping to third and Buchan and Peter Wright fourth and fifth. On the next reach a whole new set of heroes appeared at the leeward mark with Alex Hagen in the lead, Dane, Gorla, Brun and Beek in the first five spots. The wind moderated just a little, and Hagen held on to win narrowly over Buchan and Blackaller, Gorla 4th and Binkhorst 5th, Zambella and Wright 6th and 7th. Hagen and his crew Vincent Hoesch are not the giants supposedly required for Star sailing in a breeze but nevertheless showed the form that was to win them the series. The heavy air took its toll with five masts over the side and a boom broken. Melges rolled to weather on the run, stabbed the ocean with the whisker pole exploding his jib, and couldn't keep up to windward without it, dropping to the twenties.

After the race a cocktail party was held at the club along with a genuine lobster and clam bake to everyone's delight.

Second Race
Another beautiful day with less wind, 10-15 kts. from the west and cold. Yesterday's damage was all repaired. It was a beautiful start with Melges at the pin end just about a boat length more beautiful than the race committee would allow, so he had to restart and never recovered. Hans Wallen and Henrik DuBois went right for a big lead on the first leg while most of the fleet went left and left they were, in the dust. Blackaller was only able to recover to 20th. Wallen sailing beautifully held on to win the race over Stig Wennerstrom with Buchan and Wright 3rd and 4th, Binkhorst, Gorla and Hagen close behind. Buchan now leads the series with Hagen 2nd, Gorla, Binkhorst and Wright all close for the first five places.

Next day blew a gale. A number of Stars came adrift from their moorings and banged their way through the harbor until the club launches could rescue them and return them to their mooring, tied with genuine rope this time. That night one of the highlights of the week was the cocktail party and trophy presentation at the Peabody Museum in nearby Salem. Even without witches, it was a barnburner of a party. Many past world champions showed up and were introduced, including Arthur Knapp who donated some of his memorabilia to the Star Class including his original 1930 Gold Star.

Third Race
Tuesday's gale postponed the third race until Wednesday when the weather improved a little. It was a cold grey day, with rain off and on throughout the race, wind north 15-18 knots, and a rough sea. Peter Wright, with Todd Cozzens aboard, led all the way, increasing his lead on each leg. On the last beat a major wind shift to the left upset the applecart. Hans Wallen, winner of the second race, nosed out Wright only to learn that he had been disqualified for a premature start, along with six others who failed to return and restart. Thirteen were over early in this race and six came back. Wright's win gave him a narrow lead over Hagen, Buchan and Binkhorst at the halfway point in the series. Melges, second in this race, and Blackaller right behind him both were in the right place to profit from the shift. Binkhorst was fourth and Hagen fifth and while Buchan fell to 12th, all were placed well enough to stay close in the scoring.

Fourth Race
Thursday the 22nd was an overcast grey day, with shifty winds east to north expected to back into the northwest. The start was postponed for a couple of hours waiting for the wind to settle down long enough to get a line set and a race started. Finally it got under way with wind in the north, and contrary to predictions it veered about 30 during the race, clearing up to a pretty end sunny day with the wind at 12-15 kts.

Trygve Liljestrand got the jump on the fleet and was never headed, playing the veering winds perfectly. Italy's Gorla was second, with Hagen hanging in for third. Uwe von Below was fourth and Andy Menkart and Blackaller fifth and sixth. Peter Wright was seventh but ran into foul trouble today which would turn out to cost him the Gold Star. This night, while the jury was hearing five protests, the Bacardi people did their thing with the outboard motors they call blenders making all sorts of fruit and rum concoctions to the increasing crescendo of the delighted participants.

Fifth Race
Still a day behind, we attempted to continue on Friday, but misfortune piled up against us. A current was carrying the boats toward the starting line and the winds were variable making a line, square to the wind at both ends of its half mile length, impossible. The first start was aborted with 16 premature starters, the second try had a few more and on the third attempt, 37 were identified as over early. Then the wind died for three hours. Finally five minutes before it was too late to start a race, the fourth attempt of the day was a disaster. 49 boats were called over early, fourteen returning to restart properly. Of the 35 disqualified, 15 were reinstated as a result of requests for redress, which were granted for satisfying the jury they had properly restarted including John Dane who won the race.

Aside from the mess at the start it was a fast race in a nice breeze and a beautiful day. Of the contenders for the series only Hagen and Wright were in the money. Presumably without foresight, the regatta entertainment schedule did not include a party that night so that the jury could decide a record twenty?one protests. By midnight it was all resolved, scores posted and everyone ready for the finale on Saturday.

Sixth Race
Saturday's final race, scheduled for a 10:30 start, was delayed until 12:15 waiting for the very light air to pick up. In the interim we were treated to a large school of whales cruising through the fleet. The breeze settled in a little and the start got off beautifully, all clear, all close, in about 5-7 kts, from the SW. Buchan led at the first mark followed by Menkart and Binkhorst, Wright 4th and Hagen. At the end of the painfully slow first round the wind had backed to south and the windward mark was shifted accordingly, Buchan still leading with Menkart 2nd and Wright moved to third, Hagen still 7th. At the second weather mark Wright had moved to second. The air continued to fade and at the last leeward mark, with a weather leg to go there remained 43 minutes of the 3 1/2 hour time limit. Menkart was leading, Wright second, Buchan and Blackaller third and fourth, Bill Gerard fifth, and Hagen now sixth. If Hagen and Wright hold their positions, Hagen wins the Gold; but, if Wright can catch Menkart, he can win it. Half way up the final leg it appeared all was for naught as the fickle wind faded and the clock ticked on. Then the fitful air steadied in a bit and the boats got moving well. Menkart held off Wright's challenge, to win with only nine minutes of the time limit remaining; each of the following places stood guard over their position, covering carefully, and no changes occurred: Buchan 3rd, Blackaller 4th, Gerard 5th, and the new World Champion Hagen, sixth, to win over Chicago's Peter Wright by less than 3 points.

The final banquet that night was a gala affair in the tent outside the Eastern Yacht Club, with some adventurous soul running around the roof of the tent like a circus acrobat in a safety net. The speeches were made, the thank yous announced and trophies awarded. We had not witnessed the slickest racing in Star Class history, but the Eastern Yacht Club and the people of Marblehead were marvelous hosts.