Regular readers will know that I need scant excuse to post photos of Stars. For some reason it’s the boat that crawled into my soul at a very young age, captivated something deep down and has never let go. Perhaps it’s the chines. It could be the hiking position. It’s most certainly the history. Why they let it go from the Olympics is beyond me. The runners fascinate me. I don’t truly understand how it all works. And I still can’t figure out how they keep that mast up. But show me a picture of a Starboat and a weakness overcomes me. I can flick through Seahorse and find a Star at a canter – luckily the editor is as mad as I about them and even, and I say this with utmost respect and jealousy, owned one.
I’ve never sailed a Star. I desperately, desperately want to. Hell, I want one. And my Facebook feed is merely an excuse to window-shop on a daily basis. “Ooh a Lillia in Germany for £6500. I could drive down there this weekend…” It’s an addiction of sorts. It’s a mental affliction. It’s a problem. It’s an itch that I can’t stop scratching and I say again, I’ve never even sailed one. But I know I want one. It’s a boat that just looks right, points to the moon with an added bonus that with my reputation and build I get a 20 stone bodyguard thrown in for protection if I ever do, finally, take the plunge.
So when the email comes through, as it does every year, from the fabulous Bacardi Cup Invitational Regatta there’s a part of me willing it be an actual invitation but it’s always just the press release. Fair enough. I know my place. I recognise my limited talent. But it happily ruins a good 50% of that morning as I have to flick through the website photos, re-watch the videos for the umpteenth time and then jump on the Lillia website and pore over the Juan K designed Star which is as close to Michelangelo’s frescos in the Sistine Chapel for its beauty.
This year’s invitational at the behest of the eponymous Bacardi drinks brand starts on Sunday and Miami is the picture postcard perfect venue for an orgy of photographic Starboat pornography. I’m not entirely sure that I’ve ever seen a bad photo of a Star. I’ve seen Moths upside down and they’re ugly. Lasers are a photographic bore in light winds. 505s look umpty until it’s blowing 40 knots. 49ers are soap dishes that went to Eton. The Finn is a bathtub that didn’t. And catamarans, even the foiling Nacra’s, look like the designers took way too many recreational substances at University. No, the Star is the one boat, and I would argue the ONLY boat (and I’ll have the 5.5 metre mafia on me now), that looks right from every angle in every condition.
Stick them in Miami and you’ve got gold-dust. The Bacardi Cup sold me at the word ‘Bacardi’ but it’s the stand-out regatta on the calendar year in, year out. Yes it has expanded and brought in the hot J70 fleet, the almost-there Melges 24s, the oh-what-are-they Viper 640s plus those banzai Persico 69Fs that look like a long day in the office, but it’s the Star that is the Blue Riband. The Star brings the glamour and oozes the class. Look up aloft and you’ll see gold stars aplenty denoting ex-world champions and in my book that’s bigger than an Olympic medal. Carrying gold up top says more than words can ever write in our sport. Nothing comes close to a gold star on a Star.
And this year’s regatta, the 95th running of the event (95!) is stuffed with more talent in the Stars than perhaps has ever been seen before. The hugely popular and affable Mateusz Kusnierewicz sailing with Bruno Prada, are the defending champions from the last two Bacardi’s and are back looking for a three-peat but ranged against them are legends of the sport.
Italy’s Diego Negri, the hugely likeable current World Champion who won the 2018 Bacardi will be on the start line. So too, Eric Doyle, 2009 World Champ and Norway’s 2017 World Champ Eivind Melleby but keeping the whole fleet honest will be Paul Cayard who won the Worlds in 1988 but unbelievably , and quite astonishingly considering his prowess, is yet to see his name etched on the Bacardi Cup. Meanwhile new blood in the form of ILCA 7 silver medallist from Tokyo, Tonči Stipanović, who also finished runner up in the Star Worlds last year, is the darkest of dark horses having been training hard all winter.
The format is classic and gentlemanly. One race a day – remember those fabulous social regattas – with six sailed, five to count – little room for error or an off-day. To win, you need to put it all together and with a 60 boat Star fleet that’s no easy feat. I see the Bacardi as the sailing equivalent of golf’s The Masters at Augusta. A perfect regatta in the perfect venue of Biscayne Bay with history and regatta organisation the likes of which the rest of the sport simply admires. I don’t usually give sponsor quotes much truck here, and that’s my bad, but for Eddie Cutillas, Bacardi’s man in the USA, the floor is yours with this that says it all:
“Bacardi Cup and the Bacardi Invitational Regatta have always been all about the sailors.For the first time since 2020, we will return to hosting not only our usual top level sailing but also the aprés-sail for which Bacardi is renowned – with nightly cocktail hours, dinners, music and entertainment. After being forced to scale back the events in 2021, we are thrilled to return to a full line-up this year.”
And I tell you what Eddie, we’re delighted to have your outstanding company in our sport and we’re extremely grateful to you and the team at Bacardi for your continued, unwavering, undying, perennial support of this fabulous regatta.
One day. One day.