HISTORY OF THE STAR CLASS
(by C. Stanley Ogilvy)
(January 1986 Starlights)
Dozens, probably hundreds, of classes of racing sailboats have come into existence, lasted a few years, and then dropped out of the yacht racing picture during the past three quarters of a century. How does it happen that one class, the International Star, designed 75 years ago is thriving and is raced today on all levels and in 20 countries of the world? There is no single answer to this question. Many factors have contributed and still contribute to the phenomenal success and long life of the Star.
If you were to ask a top flight racing skipper why he sails Stars he might tell you that he likes the "high performance" qualities of the boat as a superb racing machine. Or he might point to the calibre of the competition, not only on the World's Championship and Olympic level but in many lesser events. The skipper and crew who enjoy a varied program of sailing in different localities would emphasize the quantity and quality of intersectional Star events available all over the world. The Star sailor who never travels, on the other hand, would tell you what fine racing he has at home year after year. The major Class officers, those dedicated souls who have to do with running the organization, meeting and solving the multitude of problems that arise in a class of this magnitude, would tell you that the I.S.C.Y.R.A., the Class Association, is the force that holds the Class together and also the power plant that drives it. And every one of these people, all of whom are members of the Star Class, would emphasize the bond of fellowship that exists world-wide among Star owners and sailors.
Star boat numbers are issued sequentially by the Class central office, as opposed to the system in most international classes whose sail numbers start separately at No. 1 in each nation and bear no relation to the hull number. Through its central control, the Star organization is able to keep in touch with all Stars no matter where they sail. Current Stars are numbered over 7000. This does not mean that 7000 Stars are being raced or even exist today. But they have existed. About 1700 are being actively raced (plus an unknown number within the Soviet Union), and this number remains fairly constant from year to year. It is of course mostly the newer Stars that race, although some aging boats that are well kept up continue to maintain creditable records. There is still a fascination connected with the older boats. The early Class history is woven around boats that would look cumbersome today, but they were Stars even then, and the Class showed promise of becoming popular from the very beginning. The Star filled a necessary place in the yacht racing world, and it has continued to fill it in spite of all kinds of competing classes.
It is not easy for us to envision yacht racing as it existed in the Edwardian world into which the Star was born. Most of today's yacht clubs had not yet been founded. Yacht racing associations of any kind were rare or nonexistent. Racing was a local affair, each club sponsoring its own type of boat. There was little opportunity for inter-club or inter-fleet competition. A single centrally controlled class of one-design small boats that everyone could build was still far in the future. There was little emphasis on small boats of any kind, especially on salt water arms of the sea. The roster of yachts in the Larchmont Yacht Club in 1910 contained 131 sailing vessels, of which 88 were more than 40 feet in over all length. It was against this background that the Star came into being.
The Star had an immediate ancestor, a boat called the Bug, said to have been 17 (or possibly 18) feet long. A so-called Bug is still being sailed on Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire, one of several formerly owned and raced there. But that boat measures 20 feet over all and is probably a "Nahant Bug," built in 1911 by Green Brothers in Massachusetts. Nahant Bugs have also been called Stars, and were once raced at Marblehead. It would be interesting to know whether any of those Marblehead boats still exist, and if so were they really Stars or these 20 foot hybrids?
George Elder, President of the Star Class for 25 years, wrote a book, published in 1955, called Forty Years Among the Stars, a story of the Class and in large part his own autobiography. It contains invaluable information about the early years. In that book Elder wrote, "Very little of the Bug's history has been handed down, for after all, it was only one of innumerable little classes and did not attract much attention. Evidently they were pretty seaworthy little fellows, for the New York Herald of July 27, 1907, published a glowing account of a wind-swept Sound, of lost masts and split sails, and stated that the Bugs were the only class to finish without a casualty. The Big Bug, sailed by George Corry, won the race. The Bug was one of the very few classes that actually started as an interclub class."
The Bug was designed in the office of William Gardner in New York, and was at least in part the fulfillment of an idea of Commodore George Corry, who wanted a small one-design boat in a price range that would appeal to a racing yachtsman of moderate means. The boat cost $140, a modest sum even then. But the Bug proved to be too small and wet for comfort, and in 1910 Corry went back to Gardner to ask for a somewhat larger version. The Star was designed by Francis Sweisguth in Gardner's office, and twenty-two of them were built by Isaac Smith of Port Washington, Long Island, New York. Five of them appeared on Long Island Sound for the first time on May 30, 1911, for the Memorial Day Regatta of the Harlem Yacht Club.
The original Star was not the trim vessel of today. Although the design has never been altered, construction methods and the care with which the boats are built have advanced so much in 75 years that a 1911 model is barely recognizable as a Star today. They cost $240 and looked it. Also the rig was entirely different from what it is now. A short mast carried a long gaff almost parallel to it, and an enormous boom hung three feet over the transom. Fittings were crude. In spite of all this, the basic superiority of the hull design began to show itself and more Stars were built. At the time when small classes were springing up and dying out every year the Star survived, with nothing to support it but its own performance and the enthusiasm of George Corry and a few others.
In 1914 occurred an event without which there might have been no Star Class today. At least we can safely say that without it, the organization of one-design classes of all kinds would have been delayed by years or decades. This event was the arrival on the scene of George W. Elder. When he bought a Star and interested himself in the welfare of the Class, a turning point had been reached, although no one knew it then. George (Pop) Corry was the "father of the Stars," but George Elder was the father of the Star Class Association and remained its guiding administrator for most of his life.
George Elder's devotion to everything having to do with Stars is exemplified by the boat roster in the first Log, which he put together for publication in 1922. By that time 107 Stars had been built, and Elder undertook to seek out and list not only the current owners but all previous owners, with dates, of each of the 107. Although it could not be 100% accurate, that list no doubt contains the correct names of most of the original owners. We have an even more reliable list of some of them in our archives, in the form of entry cards for Larchmont Race Week of 1911. Additional Stars may also have crossed the starting line, as seems to have become a Star custom in many regattas everywhere for the past 75 years, but the following owners filed formal entries.
2 Venus / Mulford, Jr. and G. R. Martin / American Y.C.
4 Argus / Livingston Parsons / American Y.C.
8 Vega / William S. Johnson / American Y.C.
9 Cynosure / Hobart Ford / American Y.C.
11 Twinkle / John G. Alley / American Y.C.
12 Mercury / J. S. Huyler / American Y.C.
14 Comet / William Rand
16 Pegasus / Gregory McLoughlin
17 Little Dipper / George A.Corry / Manhasset Bay Y.C.
19 Snake / F. L. Richards / Manhasset Bay Y.C.
20 Gemini / U. S. MacIntosh
23 Star Faraway / Alfred Burke Fry / N.Y. Athletic Club
So much of this account has been given over to events leading up to and including the year 1911 because this is our Anniversary Starlights, and 1911 is, after all, the birthday year whose anniversary we are celebrating. We continue now with a sketch of what happened in the years to follow. That it can be at best an outline is hinted by the fact that only the first half of the story fills 350 pages in Forty Years Among the Stars.
The Formative Years
Following the suspension of yachting activity during World War I, the Star was one of the few classes that put in an appearance at Long Island Sound regattas in the summer of 1919 and helped to revive the sport in that area. Meanwhile Stars had taken hold elsewhere. In 1916 George Elder had made plans and actually drawn up a basic set of regulations for a Class Association. Those plans awaited fulfillment until the winter of 1921-22. Elder wrote, "Five localities, that became fleets before the day was over, were represented at the meeting which launched the Star Class Yacht Racing Association. It was held at the Hotel Astor in New York City on January 20, 1922. The constitution and by-laws were read and adopted." The International Star Class Yacht Racing Association had been founded.
Commodore Corry was the first president of the I.S. C.Y.R.A., but by temperament he was not suited to an executive position. He was much more at home as Honorary Commodore, an office created for him in 1926 and which he held until his death twenty years later. George Elder, who had become Secretary-in-Chief, took over the presidency in 1926 and held the class reins in his hands for the ensuing quarter of a century. The way the class was run in the early Elderian days is indicated by the following frank remark from his book. "These changes (in offices) necessitated a lot of amendments. The most important were to confer powers upon the president that had previously been vested in the Secretary-in-Chief." In short, the vital thing was to be sure that the powers were vested in G. W. Elder. For a long time he was the I.S.C.Y. R.A. He wrote and re-wrote the rules. It was easy to amend the class constitution; the vote of a bunch of tired delegates at an annual meeting was all that was required. One suspects that on many occasions George did not even bother with that formality. Today it is quite another matter. Amendments must be presented long in advance, thoroughly aired and debated, and ultimately adopted only if approved by a mail ballot of the active membership all over the world.
Up to 1926 all Stars had presumably been built to the standard blue-prints and existing specifications from the office of William Gardner, but there were no class measurers or measurement certificates. At about that time it became obvious that if the Star was to remain a one-design boat, some system must be devised to guarantee conformity. At the 1926 annual meeting it was voted that all Stars would have to be measured and certified, and that no boat would be allowed to race in the 1927 World's Championship without a Measurement Certificate. There were already 400 Stars in existence, but the tremendous task of measuring all the active ones was undertaken with a will. Within a few years it had been accomplished, and the system of measurement and certification of all subsequently built boats has been in effect ever since.
Meanwhile Star racing was going on as usual. A National Championship had been sailed in 1922, and the first World's Championship (then called the Internationals) was sailed in 1923. The Class had become international that year with the addition of a fleet in Vancouver, B.C. The World's Championship began to travel around. It was won in 1926 by Comstock and Gidley of Narragansett Bay, to be taken away from Long Island Sound for the first time. Since then of course it has been all over the world. Of the last 33 World's Championships, 13 have been sailed in the U.S.A., 20 in the waters of other nations.
The World's Championship is the only Gold Star event. The first Silver Star series, the Midwinter Championship of the Class, was sailed in Havana in 1926 and thereafter until 1957. Beginning with the Championship of Europe and North Africa in 1932, five other Silver Star events have been established, all of which continue to be hotly contested major events. Blue Star (District) Championships had been initiated in 1923 with the sailing of the first Pacific Coast Championship in Vancouver, B.C., won by Owen Churchill of southern California. Churchill is listed as having won the championships of both the United States West Coast districts that year, but they may not have been independent events until 1924. The highest scoring East Coast boat in the World's Championship was called the Atlantic Coast Champion until a true District Championship (for Districts I and 2 combined) was established in 1928. Today the Blue Star event is the ultimate championship in most Star districts.
In 1925 the Class magazine, Starlights, became a printed monthly publication. It has appeared without a break for 60 years, except that during World War II publication was reduced to eight issues per year instead of the customary twelve. Class officials believe that Starlights, which goes to every one of the 3000 members worldwide, has always been a strong bond contributing to the feeling of unity and fellowship so important to any thriving organization whose members are so widely distributed. In addition the annual Log, containing the Class Rules, is also the permanent record of each year's racing at all levels.
During the 1930's the outline of a new era in Star racing began dimly to take shape. It can be described in one word: trailers. These were cumbersome four-wheeled affairs at first, home made from old auto chassis; but they enabled Stars to be hauled over land at little expense, and limitless new horizons opened up. No longer was one restricted to racing in waters within sailing or towing distance of one's own club. But the idea of land travailing did not fully take hold until after World War II with the advent of the modern two-wheeled trailer.
In the 1930's chartering at the World's was, with rare exceptions, not allowed. If one lived on the U.S. East Coast, in order to sail in a California World's Championship one had to ship his Star by freighter via the Panama Canal, a three weeks' voyage which meant curtailing the season's racing at home some time in mid-summer. The skipper and crew then had to drive across the continent or take the train. (Air travel was still in its infancy.) For a European the problem was much worse: he had to do all of the above plus get his boat and himself and crew across the Atlantic on an ocean liner. The only European entry in the 1938 World's at San Diego was the winner, Walter von Hutschler.
Today all major Star areas have adequate electric hoists, and boats from widely scattered localities get together for races many times during the summer. Even though permission to charter is now easy to obtain, a large number of skippers from all parts of the world ship or trail their own boats to the World's each year.
Race management, course layouts and all the business of properly conducting a regatta have vastly improved during the last half century. A passage from Elder's book describes the system and the old attitude. "Race committees are human and the best of them can make mistakes. l well remember being a victim when a good Race Committee started the Stars one minute too soon. Believing that we had a minute left, we were sailing away from the line when I heard a gun, looked back, and discovered that Stars were starting. All the others agreed that the gun was a minute fast, but Race Committee time is always official, even when wrong. That is one thing you cannot protest." We are not told whether the signals were also wrong, but even if they were there was little that the racing fleet could have done about it. This was written in about 1950 when juries to which one could appeal for redress from prejudicial race committee errors had not yet come into existence. At least as late as 1930 a World's Championship race was occasionally started with a dead downwind leg, if it suited the convenience of the race committee, and no one dreamed of objecting.
During World War II Star racing was held together in skeletal form in the U.S.A., and even World's Championships of a sort were held each year as "skipper series," Round Robins in borrowed boats. After the war most fleets were able to pick up the pieces and eventually resume racing, and many new fleets were formed. The top skippers and most of the action in the Star Class had always been in the U.S.A. Until 1947 van Hutschler had been the only World's Champion from another nation, but then the balance began to swing the other way. In 1986 the number of Stars sailing elsewhere in the world adds up to about twice as many as those inside the U.S.A.
Development of the Star Boat
How is it possible for a one-design boat to develop? Is not that a contradiction in terms? The idea of a one-design class is that it should remain unchanged, with all boats alike and forced to stay alike. Development implies evolution, progress, modernization. By some remarkable combination of foresight and genius, the Star has managed to accomplish both of these seemingly diverse purposes at the same time.
There exist in the world a few scattered examples of small classes designed and built early in the present century that are still afloat and racing. These are the old original wood boats with gaff rigs, rightly considered antiques and proudly and carefully preserved by their owners almost as museum pieces. There are only a few of each type, confined to a single locality, usually on an inland lake. This would have been the fate of the Star Class if the attempt had been made to keep the original gaff rig and clumsy fittings without any change. It became clear to Star sailors as early as 1921 that this would never do and that the heavy gaff, already becoming obsolete, would have to go. By the end of that season all the best skippers had changed to the "new" marconi rig that was so close to the old one in size and shape that an old mainsail could be adapted to fit the new mast. This was one of the first of many changes that kept the Class not only alive but continually increasing in popularity, and was part of the foresight mentioned above. The genius in the formula refers to the design of the Star boat itself. No amount of modernization of the rig could have helped any of the many round-bottomed basically slow designs produced around 1911. Only the Star hull continues, after three quarters of a century, to appear sleek and modern. It is astonishing that there have been no basic changes in any of the hull lines or under water parts of the Star, only slight smoothing out and grooming. The hull was designed on the same principle of flat bottom and fin keel with detached rudder that influences the design of today's ultramodern ocean racing and one-design boats of all sizes. William Gardner and Francis Sweisguth wrought better than they knew.
The first change was only the beginning, but it hinted at a class policy or philosophy and paved the way for more to come. Less than ten years later it became evident that the short mast and long overhanging boom had gone out of style, especially in Europe. "We like your yacht," said the European sailors. "Give us a rig that we can sell and we'll show you what the Stars can do on this continent." Over the objections of some old timers, the mast was lengthened and the boom shortened to retain the original sail area, and these spar lengths, introduced in 1929, have survived to this day. Partly as a result of the new rig the Class did indeed begin to prosper in countries other than the U.S.A.
With no further major changes in the rig plan, there have been many minor and gradual ones in rigging, tuning and methods of handling the boats. The first of these was the so-called "flexible rig" introduced in Germany, notably by Walter van Hutschler, around 1936. Using a refined wood spar much lighter than those in general use at the time and exploiting its flexibility to control the draft of the mainsail, von Hutschler won four of the five races of the 1937 World's Championship on Long Island Sound and introduced another new era in Star sailing. Most observers failed to credit (or admit) that the superb sailing ability and techniques of van Hutschler and his crew Joachim Weise would have been enough to put them at or near the top of the fleet without any rig innovations. They won the World's for the next two years against boats as modern as theirs.
Again there were objectors, as there always are to innovations, to allowing the "flexible rig" on Stars. But cooler heads considered the matter thoroughly and came to the conclusion that there could never be any practical way to limit the amount that a spar could be bent, and that to try to do so by imposing weight limitations on the mast would be a step backward. Controlling mainsail draft by adjustment of the stays soon became accepted procedure with virtually all classes of boats, and today it is a major part of the tuning of Twelve Metres, ocean racing craft and the rest one more racing advance to be credited to the Star Class.
Only wood spars were allowed until 1970, when aluminum was legalized by Class vote. Again the gloom-mongers made dire predictions: "It will out-date the boats and ruin the Class." They always make such predictions, which are never fulfilled. Aluminum spars were successfully phased in with sufficient control to ensure that the wood spars remained competitive. At about this time a mast tip-weight measurement was added to protect against an increasing number of dismastings.
Meanwhile fiberglass (more properly called GRP, glass re-inforced plastic) had burst upon the yachting scene. The Star had been designed with a hard chine and arc bottom partly for ease in building with wide wood planks, and people at first said, "This hull is not suited to fiberglass construction." But it soon became clear that practically everything could be made of fiberglass, and we were off again, this time for the first change in the Star hull. It was not really a design change, except that some corners were rounded off and the hull smoothed out. Partly because of a superior finish that was also easier to maintain, fiberglass boats gradually displaced wood boats in top competition. The 1968 Log was the first to contain alternative specifications for the construction of fiberglass boats, and a fairly painless changeover took place during the period 1968-72. Now all Stars are constructed of GRP, although wood boats of course remain legal both to build and to race.
Von Hutschler and Weise had improved and perfected the existing method of Star hiking: lying out horizontally, flattened against the windward side of the hull with only a hand-hold and a toe-hold to keep you aboard. The skipper reached sideways to hold the tiller or a rudimentary tiller extension. Later it was discovered that a "sitting hike" is better, and it prevails today. That called for changes in the rules to allow, first, toe-straps and later a hiking vest with chest-wire for the crew. These changes were contested as usual, but it is difficult to prevent progress in sailing methods. The general principle seems to be that any change (1) must not affect the one-design character of the Class, and (2) must be readily accessible to all.
A problem that devilled the Class for many years was the matter of hull flotation. Two or three drowning tragedies in the 1950's and 1960's made it obvious to all that the Star must be constructed so that it would remain afloat when fully swamped. This was difficult to do with wood boats, which had to carry air bags of dubious efficacy. But GRP lends itself to watertight compartment construction and the problem was ultimately solved. For some years all Stars have had to pass a buoyancy test, not only in theory but by actual flooding of the hull under the eye of an inspector. Today, many new glass boats not only will not sink but have so much built-in flotation that they can be sailed dry after a complete swamping. The self-bailing cockpit renders inaccessible most of the interior of the hull and is a far cry from the empty shell of the old wood boat. But the reduced cockpit space is a small price to pay for the security of a safe hull.
The wood boat era produced some exceedingly handsome Stars. Many had bright cedar planked decks and varnished interiors that offset sparkling chromium plated fittings. Hulls were painted in shades of every conceivable color. A few were varnished inside and out, all clear wood with no paint anywhere. Beautiful but requiring the greatest care to maintain. a few such boats may still exist as show pieces.
With advancing technology, many improvements in rigging and fittings took place over the years. The Stars became noted for their gadgetry. But as small boat fittings and methods of use continued to improve throughout the boating industry, the gadgets disappeared and the fittings went below decks so that, although complicated, the present day Star rig is not very mechanized, consisting instead of a host of "strings to pull" (blocks and tackles). With their black masts heavily raked aft and smooth white glass hulls, rigged with all lines easily reached from a side hiking position, the Stars at a modern World's Championship show fewer differences between boats than ever before. They are all so alike that a good skipper can charter a boat he has never seen and sail it successfully with little practice; another example of "Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose." It could be a motto for the Star Class: The more they change, the more alike they are.
Stars and the Olympics
Sailing as an Olympic sport began in 1908 with classes of 6-Metres, 7-Metres, 8-Metres, 10-Metres and 12-Metres. The Sixes and Eights continued in each Olympiad, with other classes in and out, until 1932 when for the first time Stars were one of the four classes that sailed, in races held off Los Angeles. Originally slated as an exhibition class, the Star was finally included as one of the regular classes on the Olympic program. This was accomplished through strenuous efforts on the part of the Class organization and the newly (1927) established North American Yacht Racing Union. Gilbert Gray of New Orleans and his crew Andrew Libano had the honor of being the first Star sailors to win Olympic gold medals.
After that Stars continued to be an Olympic class, although sometimes it required considerable pressure to have them included. One bone of contention was that the Star Association (meaning mostly George Elder) insisted that the Star Class Measurement Certificate be sufficient proof that an entry was indeed a bona-fide Star. For some years it was enough, and Stars were not re-measured at the Games. Today it is quite a different matter. The Olympic measuring is said to be at least as thorough as that of any certified Star measurer.
In 1936 Star gold medals went to Dr. Peter Bischoff and Joachim Weise, the crew who would journey to New York the following year with Walter von Hutschler to introduce "flexible spars" to the New World. That was the last Olympiad until 1948 when the races were sailed off Torquay in England. Again the Star barely squeezed in. Four classes had already been named, including a two-man keel boat called the Swallow.The Olympic authorities were overwhelmed with requests to admit the Star as a fifth class, and that was done. There had been no U.S. Swallow trials. Somehow two Star skippers, Woody Pirie and crew Owen Torrey, who happened to be in England at the time, were nominated, and they won bronze medals in the Swallows. Meanwhile Hilary Smart with father Paul Smart crewing were the duly qualified Star entry and took the gold in that class, so that the U.S. Star contingent had two for the price of one.
During the 1950's and 1960's the committee of the International Yacht Racing Union that recommended (and virtually decided) which classes were to participate in the Olympics was operating under the supposition that the Olympics should be a proving ground for new classes; that it would be a healthy thing for yachting if there was continual turnover in the classes selected; and that all boats used should be modern, which was interpreted to mean newly designed. Naturally Star Class authorities and a great many other people thought otherwise: that the classes selected for the Olympics should be those already accessible to the greatest number of sailors throughout the world. The idea of change for change's sake did not appeal.
Many official and unofficial strings were pulled to keep Stars in the Games for several Olympiads until finally, for the 1976 Games, the Star was replaced by the IYRU-sponsored Tempest. In the long run this may have been beneficial to the Stars. If it did nothing else it showed that absence from the Olympics did nothing to slow down the Star Class. Hardly a dent was made in the total numbers during that period. The Tempest proved to be not as popular as had been anticipated; it was perhaps too similar to the Flying Dutchman, a class well established and already sailing in the Olympics. Besides, it became clear to IYRU authorities that administering an Olympic class was not quite as simple as some people had thought. The intention had been to create a class with rules very tightly written from the outset, so that all boats would remain strictly one-design. But Olympic skippers are good at finding or trying to find ways to get around any rules, and the Tempest sailors were no exception. The authorities may have concluded that a self-administered class with years of experience was best equipped to handle these problems. In any event the Stars were voted back into the Games for 1980 and are still there. It was the first time a class had ever lost Olympic status and subsequently regained it. The pendulum of official opinion has now swung the other way and favors retention of the status quo. The pressure to leave Olympic classes alone comes from many quarters, mainly from countries that cannot afford to mount a national effort around a new class of boats for each Olympiad.
Some Star sailors think that undue emphasis has been placed on Olympic yachting. After all, these races occur only once every four years with the participation of about 1% of all active Star sailors. The glamour of the Olympics attracts a very small group of world class skippers, while all the others sail for lesser stakes with equal (or greater?) enjoyment, all summer every summer. Fortunately the Star Class is strong enough to cope with the challenges of the super experts and still fulfill its original purposes. These, as the Log reminds us in the opening paragraphs of the Rules, are "to promote, develop and govern Star Class racing throughout the world" and at the same time "to keep the Star Class within the financial reach of the man of moderate means."
Star Class Presidents
George A. Corry was the first President of the International Star Class Yacht Racing Association, from 1922 to 1925. In 1926 George Elder became President as "Pop" Corry assumed the new title of Class Commodore created for him. Commodore Corry was the first of several vital emissaries of the Star Class. He appeared at series all over the world to watch and promote Star racing and to explain to anyone who would listen the virtues of the Star Class. He was the toastmaster at major Star functions and the guest of honor at many others. His boundless energy, his exuberant personality and his gracious old world manner made him a popular figure everywhere. If George Elder was the ideal Star Class administrator, George Corry was its ideal ambassador.
When Elder assumed the Presidency he continued to perform all the principal duties connected with running the Association that had previously been his as Secretary. He remained President for the next 25 stormy years, during which period we were fortunate to have his strong and dedicated leadership. On the occasion of his retirement the 1948 annual meeting in Portugal adopted the following Resolution, worded by Paul Smart, "to be spread on the minutes of this Meeting, to express:"
First: The high regard the Class holds for George W. Elder as a skipper, competitor and friend over thirty-seven years;
Second: The Members' recognition of his services as a just, painstaking and efficient President, who has met intricate and difficult problems, formulated policies and worked for the well-being of the entire Membership without prejudice or favor, and who over the years has given unstintingly of his time (to many of us it has seemed all his time) without recompense except that which comes from the knowledge that he more than any person has built a Class of nearly three thousand boats and approximately one hundred and fifty Fleets in every corner of the globe, manned by the finest sailors, the best sportsmen, and the truest friends in the world; and
Third: The Members' affection for one who has been a friend of every Star sailor whether he be the veriest novice or a World's Champion, and even a friend of the lowly crew.
George Elder has been a champion in every sense; of the Class as a whole, and every Member of it; a champion who has done much for Yachting and much for Sports in their wider sense, and we of the Class now thousands strong and in many tongues rise up and wish him fair winds and slack tides, and a long life with triumphs as numerous as the stars in the heavens studding it, over the years to come.
If George Elder had a weakness, it was toward the creation of a large number of offices within the Class structure. He thought that a widespread network, by distributing the responsibilities, would keep more people interested in the welfare of the Class. In 1949 the Continental Presidencies and Vice Presidencies came into existence, the same year in which Harold Halsted, who had been Executive Vice President, took over the Presidency for a four year stint. In 1951, largely as a result of Elder's promotion of the idea, an "International" Presidency was created. In 1952 Charlie de Cardenas became the first International President, who was to preside over the Continental officers. Naturally, both presidents considered themselves the President, and a certain amount of conflict of authority was bound to develop. But both presidents took it in true Class spirit and no real trouble occurred. By 1968, however, it had become clear that no class should try to have two presidents. Jean Peytel graciously resigned after seven years as International President, and the office quietly dropped out of existence.
Paul H. Smart, who had been sailing Stars ever since he helped to establish the Central Long Island Sound Fleet, was elected Executive President in 1953 and held that office for 12 years. Even better known internationally than Commodore Corry had been, Smart was a U.S. Olympic official as well as a gold medal holder, and was also a widely travelled sailor. On the occasion of his retirement at the end of 1964, the Governing Committee published the following tribute in Starlights.
The members of the Governing Committee wish to express their deep appreciation and sincere thanks for all that Paul Hurlbut Smart has done for the Star Class during his twelve years as its Executive President. The welfare of the l.S.C.Y.R.A. has always been uppermost in his thoughts, and in recent years most of his waking hours have been devoted to its cause. His balanced judgment based on long experience has been of inestimable value on numberless occasions. Throughout the Class and indeed everywhere in the world of yachting his name is held in the highest esteem. We are most fortunate that his retirement is far from total, and that, as our Commodore, he will maintain the contacts and extend the activities that have already contributed so much to the continuing health and growth of the Star Class.
Paul Smart was followed by Frank Gordon, the first president from a lake fleet (Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire), who served from 1965 through 1973. All presidents so far, covering a period of half a century, lived in the New York City area. The administration of the Class was carried on through monthly meetings of the Governing Committee, most of whose members were also local East Coast sailors. George Elder was in the office on 42nd St. every day; the Star Class was his major occupation. But all subsequent presidents were business or professional men who could devote but few hours a week to Class affairs. From 1942 to 1961 the central office always functioned smoothly, mainly because it was under the efficient management of Corresponding Secretary Edith Glass.
During the Gordon administration it became increasingly clear that the Class had been administered exclusively by Americans for too long. European Star activity was on the rise all the time and the Europeans were rightfully clamoring for more say in Class governance. Frank Gordon worked out a reorganization plan, which was then adopted by a vote of the membership, whereby a much expanded Governing Committee was to include officers from many lands. It was thenceforth called the International Governing Committee (IGC) and Oskar Meier, the beloved "Star Onkel" of the Swiss fleets and one of the prime movers for reform, was its first chairman. The IGC became the policy making body while the day to day business of the Association was carried on by a newly created Administrative Committee. This arrangement continues basically unchanged today.
The Presidency and the central office moved away from New York for the first time in 1974 when Frank Gordon retired and Bill Parks was elected President. The office has remained in the Chicago area since then. Parks, another Olympic medalist, was President until 1979 when business pressures forced his resignation and he passed the office on to Malin Burnham of San Diego. Burnham's administration was the first to demonstrate that modern communications make it feasible to have a Class President who lives thousands of miles away from the central office.
No matter how you rearrange the organization of the Star Class Association, it cannot run itself. This became abundantly evident after the retirement of Edith Glass to become happily married after 19 years of invaluable help. At this writing we are most fortunate to have had for four years an Executive Secretary who manages the central office with both efficiency and tact, never losing her "cool" and always being ready to help unravel the vexing tangles that beset anyone involved in the details of a globe girdling organization like the Star Class. This officer is Doris Jirka, who we all hope will long be with us.
Dierk Thomsen, our current President, is a member of the Gluecksburger Fleet in West Germany and is our first European president. His election in 1983 marks the final step in fully internationalizing the Class. Like all previous presidents, he is himself an ardent Star sailor, and has always in mind the maintenance and continuing development of the Class for the maximum benefit of its racing sailors.
Class Rules and Rule Changes
A one-design class without rules would quickly cease to be one-design. Rules require enforcement, and enforcement requires a strong organization. Class members are aware of all this, and their cooperation and goodwill have always been part of the Star Class tradition. The Class's sailing officers have never lost sight of the organization as a means to an end, and have not been carried away by law for the sake of law. Nevertheless the rules are an important part of the game and their development is an integral part of Star Class history.
The first Log (of 64 pages), published in 1922, contained seven pages of rules. Since nobody had ever heard of class rules before, it is noteworthy that the intent of some of those rules and even the wording of a few of them still survive. But the current Class Rules fill 44 pages of the 1985 Log. Where did all these rules come from? They were added, expanded and embellished as the need arose.
The biggest changes in the rig have already been mentioned. Lesser changes too numerous to list, in methods of running races, eligibility requirements, administrative procedures and the rest, were taking place annually. The close regulation of a one-design class is a running battle between Class authorities whose object is to keep the boats as much alike as possible and professional builders whose object is to do the opposite if they can "improve the product" and still stay within the rules. Measurements and tolerances were rather loose at the beginning and had to be made more stringent over the years.
The Judiciary Board, established in 1949, has been most useful as a court of appeal within the Class to settle rules disputes over interpretations and to resolve ambiguities. Up to 1959 the Rules section of the Log had no index, and the attempt to prepare one made it obvious that the rules needed reorganization. They had grown into a chaotic condition through patching, re-working and the insertion of changes. The first major revision, for the 1960 Log, was undertaken by Owen Torrey, Chairman of the Judiciary Board, and your historian who was then Log editor. The next and even greater improvement took form in the 1984 Log, a complete re-shuffling that puts the rules in a logically numbered sequence for much easier reference.
Until 1968 one boat per fleet could enter the World's Championship but no other way was open. A fleet with several top notch skippers could send one, and a fleet full of tyros could also send one. Boat builders are not the only people who can get around the rules, and the result of this situation was fleet fragmentation and the formation of "paper fleets" from which to send more entries. In 1968 the present system was adopted, providing fleet quotas and the added possibility of qualifying for the World's through the District Championship. The system works, and the paper fleets have disappeared.
The Specifications also have to be kept operational and up to date, under the watchful eyes of the Technical and Measurement Committees. The Class tends to move slowly in the direction of new materials and methods. Sailboat racing has become part of a huge industry in which innovations in sailmaking and other construction methods are developed almost daily. The position of the Star Class has been to proceed with caution in order to be sure that any change is not only in the right direction for us but also within reach of all, and does not obsolete existing Stars. It is a narrow path, but so far we have not strayed from it.
A rule change can be effected only by Resolution which then must be voted in by Class-wide ballot. The records of all Resolutions submitted in the past, both those adopted and those defeated, provide a revealing study of Class trends and policies.
Many conflicts and controversies remain unmentioned in this history. Each crisis has appeared mountainous at the time, but each in its turn has been met and conquered. There will always be problems; but as long as we can continue to draw on the devoted services of a few dedicated members as we have had the great good fortune to be able to do in the past, the Class will survive and prosper.