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London 2012 Olympics - Are the Stars out?

by Bob Fisher on 30 Jul 2012
GRE, NOR, GER, CRO Star - London Olympics 2012 Day 1 Sail-World.com © http://www.sail-world.com
It was with sadness that I watched the Stars racing off Weymouth, knowing that these were to be the first two races at the end of this class's life in the Olympic Games, or is this the end? Anyone who watched the battles on the water would not want to deny the sailors or the boats a rightful place in the quadrennial festival of all that's best in sailing. They have escaped the axe before - dropped from the Games in 1976, they were back four years later by popular demand and a sense of fair play within the, then, IYRU.

Ugly yet graceful, the Star is a technical boat that tests every aspect of a sailor's skill - the ideal boat for the highest level of world competition. That is, surely, what the Olympic regatta should be all about. The closeness of the first day's racing would further point to their suitability with the first two boats in the second race credited with the same finishing time. How much closer can the racing get?

In both races, the first eight boats finished within a minute after 70 minutes of racing; it was far closer that the Finns who raced over the same waters in the afternoon. The closer the racing, the higher the standard of skill required and one was able to observe much close crossing on the windward legs and quite dramatic place changing when a wind shift came through on the second windward leg of the first race - Xavier Rohart and Pierre-Alexis Ponsot of France went from 15th to first while Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson, the reigning Olympic champions, shot down from fourth to 12th.

Yet it was the British pair who came back in the next race to finish second alongside Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada of Brazil in the day's second race. This would suggest that the class is destined for considerable excitement over the five days that precede the medal race on Sunday when the ten highest placed crews will battle out the Olympic Championship for what could be the last-ever time.

If the first day was a preview of the next eight races, that medal race could be the one that is remembered for many a long year - time that ISAF may repent at its leisure for a decision that is widely unpopular, particularly with the hosts of the 2016 Games. Rio de Janeiro is a hotbed of Star sailing - indeed it is the home of Torben Grael, who with two gold and two bronze medals in the class, is its most successful skipper.

Just how ISAF can justify its decision to oust the Star beggars belief. Possibly those members of the world body who also saw the first day's racing at Weymouth might have been drawn into mind-changing ideas. This is the boat that most tests the skills of the sailors; a truly Olympic ideal.
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