The Star class remains the only class where the great champions, who have made sailing history, race. Scarlino will host the 2023 World Championship: a true parade of Stars.
Over the years, the Star class has maintained her crown as the queen of competitive sailing, despite no longer being an Olympic class: after 100 years of history she still holds the crown!
Enrico Chieffi (CEO of SLAM and Star World Champion)
Reading the list of names that have raced on the Star since 1922, the year the first world championship took place, is a humbling experience, because among them are true sailing legends: North, Straulino, Elvstrom, Melges, Mankin, Conner, Cayard, Chieffi, Grael, Raudaschal, Scheidt, Percy. And, to tell the truth, they are also somewhat awe-inspiring, a similar feeling perhaps felt by those boarding for the first time on the queen of Olympic classes, which boasts the Olympic record of having been an Olympics event for 16 consecutive editions, from 1932 (Los Angeles) to London 2012.
The Star class sails along the thread of sailing history, with skippers who have written indelible pages in the story of our sport: among Olympic medallists, America's Cup skippers and tacticians, and protagonists of world tours, the Star class has acted as a stage for legends. In Italy, Straulino's international successes have been followed by those of Dodo Gorla, Enrico Chieffi, Roberto Benamati, right up to Diego Negri, who, with Sergio Lambertenghi, will be competing at the event scheduled in Scarlino from 16th to 24th September as reigning world champion for the second time running.
Despite the fact that today sailing is increasingly projected towards foils and skiffs, when the Star class is mentioned there is still a sense of tremendous respect and admiration for those who race in it, for those who win, because no foil can take away the history of such a class, the Star is the Star and, despite the fact that it is no longer an Olympic class, it will remain the queen of classes even in such a revolutionary time as this, in which the sailing world is brimming with entirely new concepts of boats, mentalities and skills.
Italy boasts exceptional champions, capable of conquering that gold star that can only shine on the mainsail of those who have won a Star world championship, such as Enrico Chieffi, winner in 1996 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with Roberto Sinibaldi at the bow, with whom he took part in the Atlanta Olympics. Chieffi is the CEO of SLAM, but first and foremost a talented sailor and innovator: it was his idea to shorten the mast of the Star and make it no longer through, but resting on the deck, so that it would gain in rigidity; and his idea in 1982 of new spinnaker shapes in the Olympic 470 class, a boat with which he won the World Championship with his brother Tommaso in 1985, from which were conceived those very innovative shapes with at least half the depth of the traditional spinnakers of the time.
A man who is always looking forward, in constant pursuit of excellence. We asked Enrico a few questions to understand the current state and outlook of the Star class, which will be taking centre stage on the waters of Scarlino in mid-September.
Enrico Chieffi, winner of the World Championship in '96 and, after 25 years, the European Championship, as well as the last three (consecutive) Italian Star Championships with Ferdinando Colaninno at the bow (the last one won in Viareggio at the beginning of September), is now ready for his umpteenth World Championship in Scarlino, with 100 crews on the starting line and the world’s greatest sailing specialists.
How is it possible to still find such great motivation and such satisfaction even after so many years with this immortal boat? What is so special about the Star class?
It is absolutely beautiful to be able to win an Italian Championship again thanks to a boat like the Star, which in its sophisticated technique is incomparable to any other. Today, sailing's Olympic choices have aligned with those of other sports: curling instead of boxing, free climbing, and so on; hence more and more fast sailing and foiling, which is replacing traditional sailing. Modern sailing, which certainly has great appeal in terms of dynamism, modernity, especially for the younger generations: a trend for which I am absolutely in favour, it simply reflects the times in which we are living. But the world of sailing, looking at the numbers, belongs to traditional boats: the Star is one of those classes that still has a large fleet, but if you also think of all those cruising boats, which sail with enthusiasts on board who may not be racing, but who love the sea and sailing, the numbers are not even comparable to those of foiling boats. One should not confuse the trend of foil sailing that has exploded with the America's Cup (which is very good for sailing itself), with the real numbers of the Star movement.
Star, the emblem of tradition, has two wonderful aspects: racing in the Star class is a truly special experience, because it is incredibly sophisticated, technical; it is a 'slow' boat, in which tactics, racing strategy are a cornerstone; these are elements that create a baggage for each individual helmsman without equal. I was very pleased to hear from Ruggero Tita himself that during the last World Sailing World Championships won with Caterina Banti on the Nacra 17, the crew applied a few of my suggestions on how to deal with the current, during a lesson with the Olympic teams done during lock-down. Technical details, which are being lost in modern foil sailing, but which remain essential to making a difference, just as they have always been in Star regattas.
This year at the FIV Primavela Cup/Italian Youth Championship (of which SLAM is a partner) the Waszp was introduced, an indication of the times we are living in and the advancing foiling generation. What future do you see for a classic boat like the Star, when the generation of great helmsmen such as Paul Cayard, Enrico Chieffi, Diego Negri, etc. finish sailing?
EC:Unfortunately, there is a lack of reference points in sailing today: sports such as tennis also work because they have always had characters like Federer, Nadal, and now Djokovic, who represent firm reference points over time. The rapid change in sailing over the last few years has unfortunately contributed to dissolving the myths that had been created over the years: Paul Cayard, Dennis Conner and all the legends mentioned at the beginning of the article are no longer being recreated, because there is such an evolution and such speed in changing Olympic classes that the names also change with them, as if they were meteors burning through the sky.
We must be able to bring young boys and women to the Star class, because they are the two categories that make the difference: women in sport in general are the category with the highest growth rate. Then there are the younger generations, who are certainly lacking in the Star category: a lack that needs a solution, so that Star racing becomes attractive and can thus prepare younger sailors to face racing with that same strong foundation, which no other boat can teach them: I am absolutely convinced that sailing on a Star is an amazing racing school in and of itself. The solution, however, has not yet been found, but there is a certain degree of awareness to resolve this issue, and that is definitely good news: the boat and the organisation of the Star class are certainly worth the challenge and the next generation could gain a lot of experience and enjoyment from it, because racing in Star is beautiful! Those who get on it never get off, that's a fact.
In 2021 in Kiel, 26 years after an Italian victory at a Star World Championship (in 1996 Enrico Chieffi won with Roberto Sinibaldi at the bow) Diego Negri crowned his dream, repeating his success the following year at the World Championship in Marblehead (USA), this time with Sergio Lambertenghi from Lake Garda at the bow.
What does it mean to arrive at the Star Worlds as a twice-world champion and what's more with the Championship taking place in Italy, in Scarlino?
DN:It's not the first world championship in Italy, but certainly the first in Italy that I'll be facing as reigning champion. There will obviously be more pressure this time, I know the press will be watching and we’ll be battling it out against many teams. I think I'm quite familiar with the course, even though every race day is different. The fleet is enormous and each regatta is a world championship; each regatta has its own story so this too will be a new story, let's see how it turns out!
What do you dream for the future of the Star class?
DN: Being not only an athlete but also the European Vice-President, I am very happy that the result of 100 entries for this World Championship in Scarlino has been achieved, which represents the real centenary of the class, considering that the first world championship was raced in 1923. In some respects, the Star class is still very much alive, especially on an international level with a large number of champions still going strong. In the future, I hope to involve the crews concentrated between northern and southern Europe and the USA more and more actively. Thinking about the future at a more management-related level, we are also pursuing initiatives such as the Youth Under 30, a world title that is awarded every two years, and the European Youth prize, which is instead awarded annually and this year will be held at Attersee with more than 30 boats already registered. These events are essential when it comes to bringing together numerous young crews. As for all the older racers, who have made and are still making Star history, there is a commitment to pass on their love for Star and their know-how.
SERGIO LAMBERTENGHI, bowman for Diego Negri, 2022 World Championship
Last year on the bow of Diego Negri you crowned a dream. What does it mean for a sailor of your generation to win a World Star event after so many races and so many world championships?
SL: I started Star sailing in 1985 at just 20 years old, my first world championship in 1989 was in Porto Cervo. In the beginning it was just a way to practice sailing without weighing too much on the shoulders of the family. Then in the 90s with Silvio Santoni's purchase of the first Star, things became more serious. In those years we gained so much experience, leading us to win a European championship in 1998. It was then that I first thought about the world dream. It wasn't until 2013 that the true turning point came, however: I met Diego Negri, who after an Olympic campaign gone wrong, was looking for someone to put the pieces back together and continue racing in a class he really liked. From there, over the next three years we came so close to winning the title, after which, although we were always in the top five, our performance dropped a little. In 2021, due to work problems, I was unable to go to Kiel and Diego managed to win there, crowning his dream with German bowman Frithjof Kleen. But he still called me on his way back to start planning the next world championship. As we approached the date, everything seemed to be going wrong, then everything straightened out with the start of the first race: we had a solid championship, even though we did not win any races. In the end, winning was like being struck by lightning, the crowning achievement of a career. Years ago, I had set myself three goals: to win a Bacardi Cup, to come first in the class ranking list and finally to win a world championship.
Now, at the age of 57, I can finally say that I have succeeded! Someone asked me years ago how many world titles would be enough for me, and I answered one: now that I have tasted the taste of victory, I have to say I might have changed my mind, and in Scarlino with Diego we will be fighting to defend the title in the best way possible!
• photo credit: Matias Capizzano, Martina Orsini, Marco Trainotti,
From 10th to 20th August, Scheveningen will see the world’s top Olympic athletes competing in the Sailing World Championship to earn their countries a place in the Paris 2024 Olympics
During the Nacra 17 team's training sessions in Scheveningen at the end of July, we had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Caterina Banti, an example of what it means to be an all-round athlete and champion. She explained how multi-disciplinarity is essential for developing sportsmanship and personal growth when it comes to young sailors, leading them to aspire to seemingly distant goals. She boarded her first sailing boat at the age of 16 and then approached the world of competitive sailing, achieving nothing less than the Olympics, demonstrating that the path to the peak of success can begin even without such an early introduction into a specific sport, where a child is taught to do nothing else from the age of 6, but with an encouraged passion for sports in general since childhood.