Build up to Star Worlds
Now that West Coast sailors have laid the foundation for next month's Nautica 2002 Star Class World Championship, Paul Cayard has a word of caution for those who will be coming from five other continents to compete on the same confounding seas Aug. 18-23.
"This was just an eye opener of how it's going to be here for the Worlds," Cayard said after he and crew Hal Haenel (1-10-1-4-7) won the 74th 5th District Championship on a tiebreaker over Howie Shiebler and crew Rick Peters (2-2-15-1-3) this past weekend. "The wind is fluky, and the water is so sloppy that you can't read [the wind on] the water. We have some improving to do."
Welcome to Marina del Rey. The wind can blow, but when it doesn't it's a maze of shifts and what Shiebler called "shafts of breeze," which is what challenged competitors in five races Saturday and Sunday. "You can't see it but you have to find it."
Those who did it best qualified for the Worlds - eight on their positions in the final standings among 44 entries and others who will be seeded forward off their fleet championships. Cayard and San Diego's Eric Doyle, who was third, had already qualified as former Star world champions. The district encompasses the West Coast from Oregon to Mexico.
One familiar figure who made it the hard way was Coronado's Robbie Haines, 48, who won this event in 1974 and '81, is an Olympic gold in the Soling class and has a roomful of other prizes. None of that qualified him to compete in the Worlds before he placed fourth overall with second- and first-place finishes Sunday.
Also qualifying, in order, were Rick Merriman/Bill Bennett, San Diego; Peter Vessella/Brian Fatih, San Francisco; defending district champion George Szabo/Austin Sperry, San Diego; Melges 24 star Argyle Campbell/Kevin Bowles, Newport Beach; Doug Smith/Marty Dalton, Piedmont; Susie Pegel/Tom George, San Diego; Jim Buckingham/Joel Kew, Newport Beach; Mike Dorgan/Eric Weintraub, San Diego; Steve Brown/Steve Steinberg, Newport Beach, and John Virtue/Myles Connolly, Newport Beach, along with various fleet representatives.
"It's going to be a lot of fun," said Haines, whose recent years have been devoted to helping Roy Disney and George Andreadis win ocean races on their big boats.
For Haines, who placed seventh in the 1973 Star Worlds at San Diego, it was like slipping back into an old pair of sailing gloves he'd found in the back of a drawer. His crew was young Bill Hardesty, but he'll be sailing the Worlds with his son Brian, a recent high school graduate who is recovering from a broken ankle.
Shiebler had won the 5th Districts in three of the previous five years and stood to do it again until a couple hours after the racing ended Sunday. He had filed a third-party protest against Cayard and Doyle over an incident at the last windward mark when neither protested although Shiebler thought their boats had touched.
Cayard said, "We were the leeward boat and I asked Eric to give us some room to luff up [at the mark]. For sure, the boats didn't touch. I didn't look up to see if the sails or anything else did." Cayard had flown down from San Francisco with Shiebler on the latter's private plane, so for a while it seemed the skies going home might not be real friendly.
But Shiebler had second thoughts and withdrew his protest. "I didn't want the championship to be decided by that," he said. "I'm convinced Paul didn't believe there was contact or he would have protested."
Haines also had to survive a protest by Jay LaPlante of Manhattan Beach, who finished 29th but protested Haines following a collision that holed LaPlante's boat.
Cayard, sidelined but still under contract to Larry Ellison's Oracle BMW Racing team, flew home with Shiebler while Doyle flew back to Auckland to rejoin that same America's Cup crew. Cayard will be competing in his first Worlds since '96 when he was fourth at Rio de Janeiro.
Another tune-up event for the Nautica Star Worlds is Cal Yacht Club's annual King of Spain Regatta Aug. 10-11, the week before the Worlds. The King of Spain normally involves mostly regional competitors but will draw many of the national and international sailors trying to get a feel for local sailing conditions.
From past and recent experience, Cayard already has dubbed it the "King of Pain" Regatta.
Two British competitors are currently registered to take part in the Star Worlds - Iain Percy and Steve Mitchell, along with Seahorse editor Andrew Hurst and Neal McGregor. They will be up against a fairly terrifying fleet including many past Star World Champions such as Alan Adler (1989), Colin Beashel (1998), Vince Brun (1986), William Buchan (1961, 1970, 1985, Olympic Gold 1984), Paul Cayard (1988), Torben Grael (1990), Alexander Hagan (1981/1997) and the likes of Prada's Gavin Brady and Le Defi Areva's Philippe Presti.