|International Star Class Yacht Racing Association||
1984 Olympics, Los Andgeles, California, USA
William E. Buchan of Seattle, Washington, and Stephen Erickson, his crew, became Star Class heroes by winning the regatta of the XXIII Olympiad with brilliant sailing throughout a week that culminated in a last race thriller. Even though after six races they had a slight lead and a record of 1 9 6 2 1 behind them (having used the discard), the next three contenders had also done so well that they all entered the last race virtually tied for first place. The climax of the event and of Buchan’s sailing career to date was the second windward leg of that race. After a mediocre start Bill was in 8th place at the end of the first round, with all of the other serious contenders ahead except one directly astern. Undismayed, Buchan and Erickson then went to work and began passing boats. Aboard Owen Churchill’s Angelita, the windward mark boat, spectators could see Frolic’s silver mast moving past the black ones, one by one. As Bill put it after the race, “Things definitely looked bad, but Steve and I really had our heads together today. We never felt the tension of the race, and I think some of the other guys did. We went from probably no medal to a bronze, silver and then gold in about five minutes.” After that they kept right on climbing, for yet another first place and the gold medal by 11.7 points.
Bill Buchan must be the world’s coolest sailor. Never excitable, ever the modest gentleman, he makes the most astonishing feats look easy. At 49 he is still young in spirit outlook and performance. During the 1980 racing season he had his crew (not the same one), his boat and himself up to concert pitch and the results were spectacular: they won several major events, including the U.S. final Olympic trials with boat speed that was described as “awesome.” That the U.S.A. could not participate in the 1980 Games was a great disappointment, but Buchan never let himself grow stale. “Unfortunately, interest in the Olympic classes is dying out in some places at the local level,” he says. “I haven’t launched my Star a half dozen times in Seattle in the last three years.” But that did not prevent him from taking third place in each of the World’s Championships of 1981, 1982 and 1983, and winning the 1984 Championship of Europe in Portugal. As everyone knows, he was Star World’s Champion in 1961 and 1970, and won the Mallory Trophy emblematic of the men’s sailing championship of the U.S.A. in 1955 at the age of 20.
For some years Bill built Stars as a sideline, developing the lines that stabilized the fiberglass hull at the top level and which are essentially those now used by almost all builders. Now as a man with a family and a thriving contracting business, he still manages to devote a large portion of his life to competitive sailing. But he remains a yachting traditionalist. “I’m of the old school,” he said in an interview long before the Olympics. “You get your act together and go, working nights, sailing when you can and carrying on with your life. Sailing is a demanding sport, but by itself it is not enough to be a sailor drifting from regatta to regatta. Sailing is not a sport like track where your performance is directly related to the amount of hours you spend out there running; it’s mental toughness that you get from working and the discipline of following a program.”
Bill Buchan’s actions have proven his words. And to make the 1984 Olympics perfect for the Buchan family, son Carl, who has often crewed with his father on the Star, won another gold medal crewing on the U.S. Flying Dutchman.
Measurement and Tune Up
During the week before the 1984 Games, all of the 19 competing Stars were fully measured and checked. Much credit goes to our chief Olympic measurer Joseph Knowles for the superb job done by him and his large and splendidly organized crew. Every item on each Star’s measurement certificate was re checked. As the Class rarely measures all these items at major regattas, many competitors were very busy reshaping various parts of their hulls and keels to meet the exacting standards of the chief measurer. The committee found discrepancies on several of the European built Stars, as well as the usual list of equipment deficiencies. Only Barbados and West Germany measured in completely on the first go round, without any corrections or discrepancies. Four boats from one builder had to have 2 mm. added to the bottom of the hull at Station 6, on one side only to bring the bottom arc up to the required radius. Many keels did not quite measure in and had to be corrected. Sail measurement went very well with only small problems reported. The entire process on each boat took not more than an hour and a half, which has to be some kind of record for a complete measurement of a Star.
The Class was well represented in the gala opening ceremony for 61 nations at the Olympic stadium. In the procession Hubert Raudaschl was the flag bearer for Austria, Eduardo de Souza Ramos for Brazil and Carlo Rossi for Chile.
The regatta schedule called for a practice race, then one race per day for the next four days, and three final races. During the week prior to the series the conditions were standard California weather with moderate breezes and warm temperatures. The practice race was sailed in these conditions, with 12 15 knots of breeze, a moderate long swell and small chop. Reigning World’s Champion Giorgio Gorla led around the course until the usual mass drop out at the last leeward mark, which left Colin Beashel of Australia to win the race.