Growing the Sport of Star Sailing

Published on February 28th, 2019

It’s Miami, it’s Biscayne Bay and it’s the Star Class. A big fleet of Star boats is racing on the blue ocean waters with 10 knots of breeze. It doesn’t get much better than this and it is easy to understand why so many sailors got hooked on Star sailing when events are organized in the south of Florida in winter time.

This is what the International Star Class Legacy Foundation board thought when, about one year ago, they started thinking about and molding the event they believe will keep one of the oldest sport associations shining bright for many years to come, the Under 30 World Championship. The Legacy Foundation was created in 2016 by a group of passionate Star sailors who were worried about the future of their beloved boat and class.

The Star Class was founded at Port Washington, Long Island, in 1911. Initially 22 Stars were built. Fifteen went to owners at the American Yacht Club in Rye, New York, and the remainder to other clubs on Western Long Island Sound. Since then the rig has been improved and modernized several times, but the hull design remains unchanged. The Star is among the oldest classes still holding popular regattas, and is one of the most versatile, technical, and challenging boats ever built.

The Star was represented at 18 Olympic Games for 80 years, it went from the age of traditional regattas in the 1930s and 1940s to the technological era of the fast boats at the London Games in 2012. That was the last time the class was represented at the Olympics, and when the Star Class noticed a decrease in membership and an increase of age of members.

The International Star Legacy Foundation was born with a triumvirate of sailors leading and many fans to follow. Larry Whipple (USA), Alberto Zanetti (Argentina) and Hubert Merkelbach (Germany) are the founding trio of the foundation, and started recruiting from among the most loyal Star class members. Frithjof Kleen (Germany), when elected Star Class President, joined the Legacy Foundation leadership.

The Legacy Foundation was not just a fund raising organization. The aim, with the help of a solid economic base, is to find ways to keep the Class going by encouraging young sailors to join, even without the Olympic draw.

“The whole idea of the U30 Worlds was born with the Legacy Foundation”, says Larry Whipple, one of the men behind the wheel of the event, and founder member of the Legacy Foundation. “Getting youth into the Star class was one of the corner stones of the Legacy and what better way to do it than with an international event.

“I spoke to the Star Sailors League about this about a year ago and together we looked at what other classes were doing. The Finn class has a Silver Cup, which is their Junior World Championship, so without copying that, we came up with the Under 30 Championship. We were very lucky to have almost 40 skippers joining.

“I believe part of this success resides in the fact that the event was held in Miami this time of year (winter), with many boats available, and many owners willing to lend them, because there are numerous Star events this time of year held here.

“We have other ideas to promote the Class and commitments by volunteers, but the funds are not substantial. That is also why the Star Class U30 World Championship is a shared event between the foundation and the Class, and with the help of everybody we could manage to not spend a fortune on this and still offer World Championship racing.”

The Legacy Foundation works side by side with the Star Class, with the support of the Star Sailors League that, with its live streaming, media coverage and legends sailing at the SSL Finals each December, brought the Star back into the limelight after the class was eliminated from the Olympics. The Star Class will communicate its needs to the Legacy who will try to fulfill those needs without going to sailor financial support, but by trying to help the class more accessible to sailors like at the U30 Worlds in Miami.

“The Legacy foundation had a great vision to organize this event here in Miami in this moment”, says Frithjof Kleen, Star World Champion (as crew) and Legacy Foundation board member, “Motivation for the juniors because not only is Miami one of the best sailing spots in the world, but also one of the best cities. Everybody can just fly here from everywhere.

“It was a revolutionary event and I am proud I was part of it, the Class with the Legacy offered boats, crews and accommodations to the U30 skippers, some of them like Guido Gallinaro were quite young (18 years old), and it is completely different from what everyone did in the past.

“We are very happy and honored to be able to say that after sailing the Star for the first time here in Miami at the U30 Worlds, there are at least five skippers who are looking into getting their own boat and becoming members of the Star Class.”

The Under 30 Worlds was an undeniable success for sailors and spectators, and, as the Founders conceived, it will take place every year with the support of the Star Class, the Star Sailors League and the Legacy Foundation. Almost 40 boats were on the starting line this year with some of the best young talents at the helms and legends of the sport crewing.

The Legacy Foundation is hoping that in 2020, for the second edition of the U30 Star Class World Championship, over 50 boats will be entered to compete for the trophy held by reigning champion Luke Lawrence (USA).

Source: Rachele Vitello, Star Class Communications

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