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The Star The Oldest Olympic Class Sailboat By Jabbo Gordon A Star sailing in the 2010 Star Worlds in Rio de Janeiro. Photo by Fried Elliot (

The old song “I Only Have Eyes for You” asks, “Are the stars out tonight?” The lyrics are not about the Star class sailboat, but they could have been.


tar sailors don’t care if it’s cloudy or bright. Other people and other class boats disappear from view. Many reasons contribute to this nautical tunnel vision. Some people like the friendliness, especially the worldwide camaraderie. Big time builders and sailmakers blend right in with weekend warriors. Another group of aficionados like the Star because it is so consistent. Some classes have come and gone, but the Star has been an Olympic class vessel since 1932, longer than any other boat. (The Finn is next.) But underneath it all, Star sailors believe they are part of the best on the planet. Claude Bonanni of Tampa is vice president for the Western Hemisphere and verbalizes the feeling well. “In a Star, you are always competing against the best, whether it is the Bacardi Cup Regatta in Miami or a world championship,” he said. “You can be a mediocre sailor, but you are still battling against a very high level of competition.

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“It’s not like golf. What are the chances that an average golfer is going to wind up in the same foursome with Tiger Woods?” What started out as a three-day event with less than 10 boats in 1927, the Bacardi Cup has become an iconic event, now part of Bacardi Miami Sailing Week. Other classes, such as the J/24 and the Viper 640, compete in a six-day experience, but the Star is the headliner. The late Sampson Smith Jr., who moved to Sarasota from New York in 1980, probably raced his Star in the Bacardi Cup for 30 years, according to his widow, Bridgit. And it was not unusual in the early days to compete against a cadre of Cuban sailors. Bridgit Smith, who is active in the Luffin’ Lassies (Sarasota’s women’s sailing group), also remembers how popular the Star was in Sarasota Bay. “The Star is the main reason the Sarasota Sailing Squadron has the hoist where it is located now,” she said. “There was a hoist on the New Pass side of City Island, but a new one was put up in the early 1980s. “Sarasota used to host two big Star regattas a year,” Smith added. “But the fact that it has a fixed keel made it difficult.” Although many big boats still race around buoys in Sarasota Bay, it was hard for Stars to be on a shallow course with boats, such as Thistles, which have centerboards. Let’s look at the specifications. A Star has an overall length of 22 feet, seven inches, a beam of five feet, seven inches and a draft of three feet, three inches. The sail area is 285 square feet, and the weight is 1,479 pounds. “Oh, the Star is a beautiful boat,” Smith said. “It’s fast and it’s sleek and it’s a great training boat. Many of the sailors in the America’s Cup got their start in Stars.” Adding to the class’ popularity lately is that it is