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17 August 2005, 09:41 am
Championship Gears Up
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Keane Star North American Championship 2005
Marina Del Rey, California, USA

Tight racing in the recent King of Spain Regatta heralds the tough competition anticipated for the ISAF Grade C1 Keane 2005 Star Class North American Championship, where racing begins at the California Yacht Club in Marina Del Rey, California, USA tomorrow. The Mississippi team of John DANE III and Austin SPERRY (USA) secured the King of Spain trophy by one point, snatching victory from 2000 Olympic gold medallist Mark REYNOLDS (USA) in the final 400 yards of the last downwind leg.

'We're excited, but the problem is: when you win this one, it's like you have a bulls-eye on your back,' explained DANE. 'We're happy to win the tune-up regatta, but it is just the tune-up regatta.'

40 teams competed in the two day event, which finished on Sunday and serves as a foretaste of the Keane 2005 Star Class North American Championship, where more than 45 international entrants are expected to compete on Santa Monica Bay.

Noted DANE, 'You've got a number of North American, Hemisphere and World Champions coming here … It's a very, very deep and talented fleet.'

Although it was DANE's first King of Spain competition, he was sailing with his newlywed son-in-law Austin SPERRY, who won the trophy in 2001 with George SZABO. DANE used the weekend regatta to tune in a new boat, admitting he and SPERRY had not sailed since April, when they took second place behind Paul CAYARD and Brian SHARP (USA) in the ISAF Grade C1 Star Western Hemisphere Championship in Nassau, Bahamas.

The King of Spain title came down to a duel between DANE and SPERRY and REYNOLDS and Hal HAENEL, when DANE struck the first weather mark and the penalty turn put them in REYNOLDS' wake.

'He [REYNOLDS] was leading us all the way around,' SPERRY said; 'when they jibed, we jibed. We passed him in the last 400 yards to go, to win the regatta by one point. It was pretty intense.'

SPERRY recognizes the portent of winning the King of Spain trophy, 'Everybody says it's bad luck to win the first one.' Since 1929, only three King of Spain victors have gone on to triumph in the North American Championship.

REYNOLDS and HAENEL took second while Erik LIDECIS and Michael MARZAHL (USA), of nearby Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club, took third.

'I know we had an advantage the first day,' with regard to local knowledge about prevailing weather conditions, said LIDECIS, who captured the King of Spain trophy in 2003. 'But after the first day everyone catches on to what's going on.'

Regatta Chairman Alex BENSON said conditions are expected to be superb for the Star fleet, which is a perennial favourite at host California Yacht Club. 'We have always had a great, close relationship to the Star Class. An old-time member Owen CHURCHILL was one of the original Star sailors in the 1920s and a lot of our members have continued to race in the Class.'

The Star is an Olympic Class boat, first built in 1911, that requires physicality and fine tuning on the part of the two-person team. It has a sleek, lightweight hull and powerful sail plan, which combine for exhilarating and competitive racing. Several thousand Stars have been built and are raced today on four continents.

'We have a very active local fleet with Star boat races every Thursday, and the group likes to compete against the higher level people,' BENSON noted. Hence California Yacht Club has vied for several North American Championship regattas in the past, and in 2002 hosted the World Championship.

Supporting the event is Keane, Inc., a premier business and IT services firm and decade long sponsor.

'There are striking similarities between competitive sailing and the values we at Keane try to embody,' noted President and CEO Brian KEANE, citing, 'a passion for challenge, a love of competition, and driving commitment to achieve world class performance. The level of performance that racing inspires, combined with the teamwork required to win, creates an experience that is second to none.'

Racing for the Keane 2005 Star North American Championship title commences tomorrow and continues through until Sunday 21 August. Six races will determine the North American victors, to be announced at a Sunday afternoon prizegiving at California Yacht Club.

Betsy Crowfoot (As Amended By ISAF). Image, The racing in California looks certain to be tight:©
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