Olympic sailing for grown ups

We preview the Star class at the Beijing Olypmics
By rights, the Star should have been given the boot from the line-up of Olympic sailing events ages ago, on the basis that it is genuinely ‘classic’ due for its 100th birthday in two years time, following its origins as a design by New Yorker Francis Sweisguth. However while most of the Olympic classes are effectively boats for young men, alongside the Tornado the Star represents a boat that can be sailed by grown-ups, even the middle aged - witness US Star sailor John Dane who is competing at the Games having just had his 58th birthday. The Star is not only the oldest design among the sail boat classes, it is far in away the oldest Olympic sailing discipline to have survived. Introduced to the Olympic Games in 1932 this venerable keelboat, with its characteristic chine and flat forefoot, has featured every year except 1976. As a result it has a highly influential following among the sailing elite and while Olympic sailors tend to graduate up to large keel boats and events such as the Audi MedCup, America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race, about the only class professional sailors can go if they wish to rediscover the purity of Olympic class competition is back to the Star. While in Athens we saw Torben Grael and Paul Cayard compete, this year Australian AC veteran Iain Murray is returning for a stab at Olympic glory. In fact the Star has been shedding its reputation as being the ‘old man’s class’ over this decade. Among the line-up in Qingdao John Dane and Iain Murray are the exceptions with the majority comprising sailors who have graduated up to the class from the Laser (Diego Negri, Robert Scheidt, Hamish Pepper) and in particular the Finn (Xavier Rohart, Iain Percy, Mateusz Kusnierewicz and Freddie Loof).