George Szabo tells how the Star NA’s were won…
Not your ordinary regatta preparation. If possible, I prefer to show up at a regatta refreshed, with a tuned boat that I know is going well, a crew that I’ve raced and practiced with before, and have a few days at the regatta venue to get used to the conditions.
While that is a nice plan, heading to the Star North Americans this year, that was not the case. My crew and I had spent the previous two weeks in Weymouth, England racing at the ‘Skandia Sail for Gold’ regatta. I had two travel days between events, one to get home, and the other to do laundry, pack a Star, get a plumber to fix the backed up plumbing in my house (a fine welcome home) and drive from San Diego to Los Angeles. I was short on time and even shorter on sleep. My crew for the event would be someone I had never sailed with, Frithjof Kleen, from Germany. Frithjof had just won the regatta in Weymouth with another skipper, Peter O’leary. I figured Frithjof would be a good crew – I just had to hope that we’d get over our jet lag quickly.
The plan was to sail Mark Reynolds’ Folli (Mark was trying a P-star for the event), but that changed. While flying home, Larry Whipple was unable to go to the regatta at the last minute, and offered us to use his new P-Starboat for the regatta. A great offer, but a tough call because I had a proven Star ready to go. It had been winning local events, and all I had to do was pop the mast in, get the sails up, and go. The new P-star is an American built boat that has been winning regattas this year. This particular boat had only sailed for 2 days, so the rig would still be stretching in, and probably not tuned optimally. Do I put my time and energy (both on short supply) tuning a new boat or go with the ready-to-race Folli? I brought Mark’s boat to the regatta just in case. Our final decision was to take the opportunity to try the P-star.
Once we arrived it took us a day to rig, re-rig, measure in, and check the tuning. The following day, we got out on the water, tacked back and forth for an hour, looking up the mast, and adjusting shrouds to get the mast a similar shape side to side, and then we spent another hour tuning against other boats. I figured we were going well, but I was still concerned about the unknowns of racing a boat I’d never been in before. This being Frithjof’s first trip to California, he found time to go to Beverly Hills, Venice Beach, Muscle Beach, and a few other tourist spots.
Day 1 of racing – my crew was still a certifiable German tourist. All day long, his camera was tucked under his sleeve. He probably took over 50 photos – some of seals on the rocks while sailing out, some of the boats near us while hiking upwind, other photos of Los Angeles and also of the fleet, while standing on the run. Somehow we won both races that day, so the boat seemed to be fast enough.
For the 2nd day of racing, we started out with a 2nd in the first race. Between races, Frithjof was told that the“HOLLYWOOD“ sign can be seen from the water, so he spent most of his time looking downwind, towards Los Angeles, hoping to find it. Eventually he did get a photo of it, but he’s going to have to zoom in pretty close to find it in his picture. The start of the 2nd race didn’t go so well, and found us playing catch up. On the second beat of the 2nd race, we nearly ran over a Sunfish (the fish not the boat) sunning itself on the surface.
Day 3, we had another 1st and a 6th. We had to grind back to get 6th after a not so good start. Best entertainment of the day was Frithjof shouting “FINS!!!”, followed by his scrambling out of the mini hike and into the boat. Turns out, there was a channel of current running up the coast. Frithjof had spotted several dolphins crossing under the boat. Then, the dolphins began swimming alongside the boat and playing under the bow. Frithjof was not impressed, and once the wildlife disappeared, it took some convincing to get him to go back over and hike again. Back on land, we were able to compare fin stories with others, and two teams swore they had sighted a small Great White Shark. It seemed plausible because beaches in San Diego, had recently been closed due to White Shark sightings. I wasn’t sure I’d have a crew that would hike the next day.
On the final day of the event, only Lars Grael could beat us. We had control after the start, ahead and to weather, and let Lars sail where he wanted on the beat, however we never allowed him to have bow out. We didn’t tack on him by the first mark, and both boats were mid-fleet – sailing our throw outs. On the run, he gained on us, went to the opposite gate, and was able to pass us. We stayed near him on the beat and were able to grind him down, and pass him toward the end of the beat. By this time, we had moved from the 20’s+ to top 8. We were not in a good position because we needed Lars out of the top ten. Considering he had passed us on the first run, and had the potential to do it again, we preferred him to be back a little further. We tacked on him a few times on the starboard tack layline, which kept us in front of Lars on the run. That was enough to give us the regatta win. More pics here, results here.