Launched in 2012–13 as a way to bridge the popularity of the class after being kicked out of the Olympics, Miami Star sailor Stuart Hebb along with Sailing Anarchy’s own Alan and Meredith Block and EFG Bank pooled their resources and built something new. Basically copying the successful Jaguar Cup for the Etchells, Hebb packaged existing events with a big Midwinter championship, making Coral Reef ground zero for the series and lining up the race boats on ‘Star Row’ at the club. The first year witnessed small fleets, but a healthy growth rate has the biggest event now reaching nearly 50 entries and the SWS providing a perfect string of race weekends building to the Bacardi Cup – which is this year followed by the Western Hemispheres.
The highly successful Star Sailors League has helped with the momentum, helping to attract former Olympians back to the class they made their names in. Ireland’s Peter O’Leary is one of those newly returned face, and he’s sitting in second after two light races yesterday. Also returning to the Star this week is crew Anthony Shanks, who is part of a group of former GBR Star sailors being organized by Iain Percy to attend the upcoming Bacardi Cup in March.
Another new face at the front of Midwinter’s fleet is Danish sailing legend Jørgen Schönherr (505, Dragon and FD World Champion), who stated, point-blank, that the SSL live streaming broadcasts were the reason he got excited to join the class and the movement. He lauds the boats athleticism and its unique position as being the only two-person keelboat with such a high level of competition. Schönherr has spent time training in his new boat in Lake Garda with a group organized by German Olympian and Star World Champion, Frithjof Kleen. Kleen also was responsible for training Paul Goodison prior to his win at the SSL Finals in Nassau in December.
The Star is also beginning to turn the tide on its image as being an older man’s boat. The number of younger skippers and crews has slowly but surely increased over the last few years. The class sponsored two boats for young skippers this year, and hope to do more in the future. The Winter Series is also more cost effective for younger teams on a budget. Teams don’t need to trailer their boats from place to place. The The young American duo of Luke Lawrence and Ian Coleman have been regular participants on the Star circuit, climbing to 12th place in the SSL rankings last year. The pair has been helped through boat loans from both the SSL and class members.
US Laser Olympian Charlie Buckingham is an example of a new generation Laser and Finn campaigners who have been attracted to the class, due in large part to the showdown of all three Rio Laser medalists in the SSL Finals in 2016. They see the Star in their future after campaigns and the Star offers them the unique opportunity to compete against legends of the sport like Robert Scheidt, Torben Grael, Jochen Schümann and the Star also allows them to compete against fellow Olympians from other classes whom them know, but never had the opportunity to compete against.