Victors Magnus Lilijedhal (left) and Mark Reynolds celebrate dockside after winning the coveted Star Class World Championship trophy.
"It's so hard to win the Worlds in this class," explained the 44-year-old Reynolds. "It took me a long time to win one. To get another one five years later is pretty special." This was the 18th consecutive World Championship regatta for Reynolds. At last year's event in Italy, he and Liljedahl, 46, finished third. With former crew Hal Haenel, Reynolds had represented the US at every Olympics in the Star since 1988, where they won a silver medal in Pusan, Korea, followed by a gold medal performance in Barcelona in 1992.
Long courses and a big fleet spread the competitors out across much of the Chesapeake Bay.
Becoming a world champion in an Olympic year, particularly when countries must qualify for a limited number of available berths at the Olympic Regatta, is a daunting task. Before the Annapolis regatta began, crews from nine nations had already qualified to represent their countries, but eight slots remained to be determined. That, coupled with the usual intensity of a well-qualified, 112-boat fleet with some of the world's top sailing talent, made this a particularly competitive regatta.
There's a reason that Star Class crews scale in at an average of 230 pounds—heavy air.
Besides Brady and Gale, the other teams that qualified for the Games include: Ross MacDonald and Kai Bjorn from Canada, who finished second; Mark Mansfield and David O'Brien from Ireland, who finished fifth; Mark Neeleman and Jos Schrier from the Netherlands, who finished 12th; Peter Bromby and Lee White from Bermuda, who finished 16th; Flavio and Rento Marazzi from Switzerland, who finished 15th; Halvor Schoyen and Asmund Tharaldsen from Norway, who finished 20th; Leonidas Pelekanakis and Diuistris Boukis from Greece, who finished 22nd; and Eduardo Farre and Eduardo Lucca from Argentina, who finished 30th. Despite having qualified their countries for the Games, it is still unclear if all these sailors will go on to Sydney.
A variety of conditions helped regatta organizers ensure that the eventual winners were deserving of the title "world champions."
With two-mile legs and long starting lines, the boats can also get very spread out, so calling the shifts wisely can be as important as knowing how to tweak the Star boat's complex rig for optimal speed. Race managers from the Annapolis Yacht Club often postponed starts for up to two hours waiting for shifts to settle in, yet there were more than a few races where competitors found themselves well overstood of the mark by not properly reading the shifts or the current.
It's therefore no mistake that with these challenges, the Gold Star winners are among the world's top sailors, including such legendary names in the sport as Lowell North, Tom Blackaller, Dennis Conner, Paul Elvstrom, and Buddy Melges. In fact, on-site ESPN crews had imported Melges to provide commentary for a half-hour program being produced on the event.
Joe Landrigan and Mark strube lead the fleet around the top mark in Race 5.
Reynolds also had high praise for the organizers of this year's event. "I've been to 18 straight Star Worlds and this is the best one yet. As far as overall organization, race committee, and onshore parties, I haven't seen better." If the management of this event has set a standard, Reynolds and Lilijedhal have notched one of their own, and for the rest of the elite sailors who will gather in Sydney later this year for the Olympic Yachting Games, the gauntlet has been laid.
For complete results of the Nautica Star Class Worlds, log on to www.annapolisyc.com.
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