An influx of international celebrity sailors will more than double the usual number of boats for the West Coast's largest Star class regatta this weekend, and there's a clear reason why the annual King of Spain Regatta is going global.
"This is a dress rehearsal for the Worlds," California Yacht Club Commodore Dean Dierks said.
The Nautica 2002 Star Class World Championship will run Aug. 18-23. Many of the 114 entries from 26 countries will use the King of Spain not only as a tune-up but as an opportunity to test the waters. Dierks, the event co-chairman with Bill Stump, expects as many as 75 boats to compete, compared to the usual thirtysome.
The defending champion is George Szabo of San Diego, whose competition will include several world champions, including his boss at Quantum Sails, Mark Reynolds, a three-time King of Spain winner; North Sails rival Vince Brun, a five-time winner; current world titleholder Fredrik Loof of Sweden, triple world champion Bill Buchan, Seattle, and recent 5th Districts winner Paul Cayard, San Francisco.
Brun will borrow Eric Doyle's crew, Rodrigo Meireles, while Doyle is in Auckland with the Oracle BMW Racing Team. Doyle will return for the Worlds, when Brun plans to join Team Dennis Conner in Auckland.
The King of Spain regatta is named for the late King Alphonse, who donated the trophy, a silver replica of a 15th-century Spanish galleon.
The event was first run in 1929, although the legendary Owen Churchill "retired" the trophy after winning six of the first eight events---four in his Olympic gold medal 8-Meter, Angelita. When it was revived in 1969 after a 32-year pause, a few events were sailed in other Olympic classes---Finn, Soling and Tornado---but the King of Spain has been strictly Stars since 1977.