Summertime is approaching on Croatia's Dalmatian Coast and over three dozen Stars are sailing out of Yachting Club "Labud" for the 2008 ISAF Grade C1 Star Eastern Hemisphere Championship.
It is an Olympic year and 11 of the 15 teams that will be sailing for the gold medal in Qingdao are here. Many will go on to sail the European Championships on Lake Balaton, and before they know it, head to Qingdao for practice at the Olympic venue. Past and present World, Eastern Hemisphere, Western Hemisphere, European and North American Champions are among the sailors from 20 countries who are trying to add a silver star to their collection while enjoying the Mediterranean climate, superb sailing conditions, world class competition and Croatian hospitality.
Not only are there boats from a patchwork of Eastern and Western European countries, but as the southern hemisphere heads into the throws of winter, Lars GRAEL
(BRA), Marcelo JORDAO
(BRA), Robert SCHEIDT
and Bruno PRADA
(BRA) are sailing, swimming and sunning themselves in Split rather than on Ilha Bella, Brazil. The Kiwis Hamish PEPPER
and Carl WILLIAMS
, are getting used to doing transactions in kunas and the Aussies, Iain MURRAY
and Andrew PALFREY
, are becoming familiar with using Diocletian's Palace and the cathedral of St Domnius as a line sight rather than Sydney's Opera House. Ed MOREY
, from the USA, has teamed up with Switzerland's Henrik DANNESBOE
, and after towing a Star through Europe is still getting over the shock of the price of fuel here.
Situated on a peninsula, Split has two naturally designed harbours that have stood the test of time and have been fiercely fought over by Illyrians, Romans, Croats, Franks, Venetians, French, Austrians, Germans and more. Fishing and ship building are in nearly everybody's genes here. Croatia's second largest city has limestone quarries and a commercial and military port that have been the envy of all would be conquerors, including the Venetians in the 15th century and the Germans in the 20th century. JK Labud occupies a prime spot on the western side of Split's half moon shaped harbour. Diocletian's Palace, built at the turn of the 4th century AD, occupies the central part of the harbour's waterfront promenade and is its focal point. Within its white stone walls are 220 buildings including churches, cathedrals, crypts, shops, restaurants, clubs homes and a labyrinth of marble pedestrian walkways. Flanking the eastern side of the harbour is a very active fleet of ferries and ships that offer service to the nearby islands and Adriatic crossings to Italy.
Split has hosted the Mediterranean Games, international swimming and sailing competitions. JK Labud, which will celebrate its 85th anniversary last year, is proud of its contribution to Croatia's centuries of sailing history. The club whose founding members thought sailboats under full sail looked as pretty as swans and named their club "Labud" after the graceful birds, hosted the 1997 Finn European Championships, the 2006 Finn World Championships and a 2003 World Match Racing Tour event in 2003. Given the club's position on the peninsula and the deep water immediately off the shore, some of the match racing turning marks were so close to the spectators that they felt as if they were part of the action. This year's Star Eastern Hemisphere Championship regatta is a special treat for the club that boasts Split's mayor, Ivan KURET, who sailed the 470 at the Atlanta Olympics, among its membership. Ivan's brother, Karlo KURET
, the world renowned Finn sailor who finished fourth in Athens, is also a club member. Croatia is sending a record number of sailors to the 2008 Olympic Games. The small country will field teams in the Finn, Laser, Laser Radial, 49er, 470 and the Star. The Croatian Sailing Federation coach, Marco MISURA is a Labud member and coached Marin LOVROVIC JR
and Siniša MIKULICIC
in qualifying Croatia for the 2008 Olympic Games in the Star.
Following some practice starts in light air, a practice race was started. A crowd at the pin end of the start had their eyes set on a breeze line that was being sucked toward the course by a slow moving thunderstorm moving to the northeast. Iain PERCY
and Andrew SIMPSON
(GBR) were among the first to catch the shift. They sailed they shortest distance while fetching the mark, rounded first and held their position on the rest of the fleet on the run.
Joker, a developer and operator of a chain of supermarkets throughout Croatia, a large new shopping mall in Split and hotels, is the primary sponsor of Star Eastern Hemisphere Championship. Additional support is from the Croatian Olympic Committee, the Croatian Sailing Association and the City of Split.