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Posted by on Aug 6, 2012 in Sailboat Racing, US | 1 comment

Star Class: Back again for the 2016 Olympics?

Gael Pawson reports on the issue that had tongues wagging in Weymouth, just after what could be the final Olympic race for this iconic keelboat.

The first medal race of the 2012 London Olympic Games saw such close racing that the word thrilling doesn’t really do it justice. Right up to the closing seconds of the twenty minute race, which nation would take which medal was undecided. It wasn’t good for the nerves, but it was great for the spectators and the headline-writers. The event proved that sailing could be an exciting crowd-pleaser.

2012 London Olympics Stars racing

Racing was tight, exciting, and easy to follow in the talent-rich Star Class for the 2012 Olympics. USA’s Mark Mendleblatt/Brian Fatih finished seventh overall.

And after following the various classes all week, those of us on the press boat decided that the Star was one of the easier classes to follow. The fleet was also packed with some of the most talented and experienced sailors in the world.

At the press conference after the racing ended, one issue raised its head high above the drama of this exciting day; that of the class’s future.

Earlier in the year, the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) had voted to drop the class from the Olympic line-up. To some this makes sense; make the Olympics purely about the dinghy classes – leave the keelboat sailing to the professional sphere of match racing and America’s Cup. But class fans laid out their strong arguments, throwing down the gauntlet to ISAF.

2012 Olympics Star medalists

From left: Great Britain’s silver medalists Iain Percy/Andrew Simpson; Sweden’s gold medalists Fredrik Loof/Max Salminen; and Brazil’s bronze medalists Robert Scheidt/Bruno Prada.

“We’ve got a few boats that sadly are worthless right now,” said British silver medallist crew Andrew Simpson, “unless ISAF sort it out and get us back in the Olympics – or the Brazilians to our left sort it out and put it in the Olympics…”

“I was in touch with the Olympic committee President in Brazil Mr Nuzman,” added Robert Scheidt, the Brazilian skipper and bronze medallist. “He’s keen on putting some pressure on ISAF, and with the help of also the IOC [International Olympic Committee] perhaps we can turn this around. It’s not guaranteed, I don’t know how much chances we got but I think the show that we put on this week and the final coming to the medal race like four years ago, with nothing decided until the finishing line… it’s a great class, it’s a great atmosphere and people are really good athletes. I think the class really deserves to be in Rio 2016 and that is all.”

“I think after the Star it’s hard to go back to another boat,” Iain Percy explained. “You kind of make these steps up the classes… a keelboat represents sailing and also gives an avenue for the other medallists that we’re going to have coming through the 470 and the Laser this week, it gives them a class to move on to, a stepping stone onto the professional world. I think it would be a real shame if that avenue wasn’t available. There’s 16 medals I think up at the table here now, and that sums up what the Star class is about. I think it would be a shame not to have that in Rio.”

“The Star will be back… that’s a promise,” Brazilian crew Bruno Prada said firmly. But whether ISAF’s decision can really be overturned remains to be seen…

Photos courtesy of Onedition

- Gael Pawson

Editors’ Note: Gael is providing special reports on the US Sailing Team throughout the events in Weymouth. For previous posts, see below:

1 Comment

  1. There is simply no better more exciting boat to sail than the STAR…They are a beautiful looking boat, sailed by the best sailors in the World…If there were only one boat in the Olympics, it should be the Star. A few years back, and for only one it was replaced by the Tempest…Having sailed one of these against Stars there was no comparison….If you could find one today, you probably could pick it up for no more than $500. The Star doesn’t need the Olympics, the Olympics needs the Star….