Richard Langdon / Skandia Team GBR

London 2012 form guide: The Star

Britain v Brazil clash of the titans anticipated

Thursday July 19th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Having thought about this for some months now – one of the travesties of the Star being dropped from the Olympic roster for Rio 2016 is that it represents the loss of what is Olympic sailing's effective ‘champion of champions’ event. Yes, we will be watching all of the sailing events in Weymouth and all will be filled with top notch sailors. But the Star class is where the grown-ups go to slog it out, it is the heavyweight bout of Olympic yachting, the battle royal between the legends of our sport. The Star will be the sailing event we will be most glued to at London 2012.

The doublehanded Star keelboat is limited to 16 boats at the Olympic Games and of the 32 sailors only 11 haven’t been to the Games before and of these only two are helms - Robert Stanjek (GER) and Eivind Melleby (NOR).

Between the 16 helms alone there are 41 Olympiads, the line-up including several Olympic sailing titans. Most notable is Robert Scheidt (BRA) who has won either a gold or a silver medal at all four of the Olympic Games he’s been to. It should be remembered, if one scores medals as 3 points for gold, 2 for silver and 1 for bronze, Scheidt is only 1 point behind Ben Ainslie (thanks to a certain final Laser race in Sydney in 2000) and, continuing this scoring method, if he wins Gold in Weymouth, he, as well as Ainslie, will both have eclipsed Paul Elvstrøm’s present record as the most successful Olympic sailor of all time.

But then there is Iain Percy, the defending Olympic champion, who has won gold in two of the three Olympic Games he’s been to. And the huge depth of experience continues in the likes of Freddie Loof (SWE), for whom London 2012 will be his sixth Olympic Games, previously having won Star bronze in Beijing and Finn bronze in Sydney or Mateusz Kusznierewicz (POL), on his fifth, with a Finn gold from Atlanta and a bronze from Athens behind him. Xavier Rohart (FRA) is also on his fifth with a background in Olympic sailing as long as Loof’s, dating back to Barcelona in 1992.

Returning to the Champion of Champions analogy, with the exception of Scheidt, the strongest group has graduated up from the Finn (six in total – Percy, Rohart, Loof, Kusznierewicz, Emilios Papathanasiou (GRE) and Richard Clarke (CAN)), the majority making the move post-Sydney. In addition to Scheidt, two others came directly from the Laser in Hamish Pepper (NZL) and Mark Mendelblatt (USA), while, perhaps surprisingly, two - Michael Hestbaek (GER) and Afonso Domingos (POR) are ex-49er sailors, although Hestbaek’s career has gone full circle – his first Olympics was 1996 in Atlanta aboard the Star. None have come from the 470 presumably due to the crew weight disparity between the two classes.

Many of the helms in the class are professional big boat sailors. Percy and Simpson were both part of Team Origin and Percy, now a confirmed catamaran enthusiast, is due to sail the America’s Cup next year with Artemis Racing. Mark Mendelblatt was in the Emirates Team New Zealand afterguard in 2007, Hamish Pepper was with the Kiwis in 2000 and 2003 and his crew Jim Turner was with GBR Challenge in Auckland – all regulars on the big boat circuit. Richard Clarke most notably won the Volvo Ocean Race with John Kostecki (another Star sailor) on illbruck, while Eivind Melleby sailed on Ericsson 3 in 2008-9. Even Robert Scheidt had his steely Olympic focus broken when he was lured away from the start of his present campaign to drive the Luna Rossa STP65.

Also interesting, and another indication of the degree of competition in the Star, is who didn’t manage to qualify for the Games. This includes Fernando Echavarri (SPA), the Tornado gold medallist from Beijing and Telefonica Black Volvo Ocean Race skipper, and Diego Negri (ITA), last year’s European Champion who has been consistently a top 10 finisher at major Star events.


Our ranking table  - see below or download this as a pdf here - has Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada coming out on top. Even in the higher echelons of the Star class, the Brazilians have been the most consistent performers over the last three years and Scheidt is certainly keen not to be denied a gold medal by a British sailor for a third time in his Olympic career.

The ranking has Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson in third place, but this was due to their retirement at Perth 2011, when Percy suffered a back compliant (since fixed). If you allow one discard to Scheidt (who bailed half way through Hyeres this year) and Percy’s result in Perth, then the Brits move up to second, right on the Brazilian transom. And this is a more accurate reflection of what is expected to take place on the water at the Games – a duel to the death between the British and the Brazilians with the Brazilians ahead on form, but the British holding the home team advantage, sailing on waters they know extremely well and with that spark of brilliance they are capable of showing when it counts, as they did in Beijing.

A possible downside of having this intense rivalry at the front of the fleet is that it can allow others in, as occurred at Skandia Sail for Gold, when going into the medal race with the Brits a point ahead of the Brazilians, an altercation on the race course between their two boats resulted in Ireland’s Peter O’Leary and David Burrows sneaking through to claim gold ahead of them.

As to the most likely candidates also capable of getting on the podium, then it is really open to any in the top two thirds of the fleet but form going into the Games would suggest the hugely experienced and very consistent Swedes, Freddie Loof and Max Salminen, to be the most likely candidates.

Star racing starts on Sunday 29 July at 13.30 on the Weymouth Bay West course with their medal race on 5 August.

Tomorrow we speak to Hamish Pepper and Jim Turner about their campaign, the technical nuts and bolts of the Star and how Turner is no longer a British citizen.

Mark Mendelblatt and Brian Fatih (USA)

Eivind Melleby and Petter Morland Pedersen (NOR)

Xavier Rohart and Pierre Alexis Ponsot (FRA)

Richard Clarke and Tyler Bjorn (CAN)

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London 2012 - Star ranking table

Pos Helm Age Crew Age2 Nat SFG   WC Hyeres Euros Palma Perth WC Test SFG WC WC3 Beijing Rating factor
            2012 2012 2012 2012 2012 2011 2011 2011 2010 2009 2008  
1 Robert Scheidt 39 Bruno Prada 40 BRA 2 1 18   1 1 1 1 9 11 2 13.70
2 Fredrik Loof 42 Max Salminen 23 SWE 4 5 3 2 6 5 7 2 7 6 3 16.27
3 Iain Percy 36 Andrew Simpson  35 GBR 3 2 1   2 30 2 5 1   1 21.23
4 Xavier Rohart 44 Pierre Alexis Ponsot 37 FRA 5 9 2   3 7   22 25 18 6 28.94
5 Peter O’Leary 29 David Burrows 35 IRE 1 4 7     12 4 12   23 13 29.37
6 Mateusz Kusznierewicz 37 Dominik Zycki 38 POL 15 10   1 11 4 3 4   7 4 32.18
7 Flavio Marazzi 34 Enrico De Maria 35 SUI 9 6     7 16 13 11 2 8 5 33.07
8 Hamish Pepper 41 Jim Turner 36 NZL 11 7     5   6 9   2 9 34.01
9 Eivind Melleby 40 Petter Morland Pedersen 27 NOR 6 17 5 3   6 10 16 8     34.94
10 Robert Stanjek 31 Frithjof Kleen 29 GER 8 11   9 14 2 11 19 18 19   37.77
11 Richard Clarke 43 Tyler Bjorn 42 CAN 7 18 4   9 10 8 6       42.63
12 Michael Hestbaek 43 Claus Olesen 37 DEN 10 3 7 6 15 21           50.69
13 Afonso Domingos 42 Frederico Melo 25 POR 12 19   4 17 13 15 24 26 12 8 51.70
14 Mark Mendelblatt 39 Brian Faith 39 USA 13 21       3 9 8 22     52.93
15 Emilios Papathanasiou 39 Antonios Tsotras 25 GRE   8 21 14 16 27 17 16 32   15 61.45
16 Marin Lovrovic 39 Dan Lovrovic 27 CRO 14 12 10   12 31   23 16 20 15 61.79
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