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Bringing back the woodies

2017 November 1

Star boat sailors are breathing new life into the class by rescuing, restoring and racing classic wooden boats in the inaugural Vintage Gold Cup on Michigan’s Gull Lake

Skipper Keith Donald, with crew Kevin Elterman, sails his restored 1959-built Hope, the oldest Star at the regatta.
Walter Cooper photo


Andy Ivey was another sailor to bring his boat to the regatta. Ivey, who won the woody regatta at Larchmont, had first restored his boat in 2011 for that event. Ivey and his crew Ed Gardner have sailed together and against each other since they were 14 years old on New Hampshire’s Lake Sunapee, a lake that has had a Star fleet since 1935.

“When you sail a woody well against a good sailor, you know it’s you and not the boat,” Ivey said. “At a regatta like this with world champions and Olympic medalists, sailing a woody gives amateurs like us a chance.”

Skipper Larry Whipple and crew Kirk Utter, of Biscayne Bay, Florida, sail hull No. 4663 Bottom’s Up.
Walter Cooper photo

The first two days of racing under sunny blue skies provided perfect sailing conditions to test Ivey’s theory. Not wanting to stress the 50-year-old boats, the regatta had a wind limit of 15 knots. The first day’s puffy 10 knots was plenty to challenge the skippers, while the second day tested the upper wind limits. The final day of racing was cancelled due to lack of wind. Reynolds took third, Anosov second, and sailing an almost perfect regatta was Cayard.

“I am so excited to be sailing Gem IX because Durward is a longtime mentor of mine. I used to stay at his home in Nassau when racing Star events,” Cayard said. “He’s going to be 100 in November, and I can’t wait to call and tell him.”

The gleaming varnished Gem IX, one of the Stars restored at The Shop, was the boat Bahamian Sir Durward Knowles sailed in the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo when he won a gold medal. 

“It was 40 years ago that I last sailed a wood Star,” Cayard said. “The most impressive thing is the beauty of the wood when you look down, and knowing that this was Durward’s boat. It must have brought me luck.”

Next year’s Vintage Gold Cup will be sailed in fall on Gull Lake, but organizers hope that the regatta will move, perhaps to New Hampshire, in the coming years.

“The Star Class motto is  ‘Honoring the Past, Leading the Future,’ and this regatta couldn’t be more symbolic of that motto,” VanderMolen said. “I’ve even had someone ask me if I could build a new P Star out of wood.”

Currently VanderMolen has two boats in the shop that were in the queue but not finished in time for the regatta. Meanwhile he is packing up a few of the boats and taking them south to race the winter circuit.  “I’m really hoping to sell some, so more people can get involved in racing them,” he said.

“There has been a tremendous amount of energy generated by this regatta world-wide, and now I have people calling wanting to start a regatta or donate boats,” VanderMolen said. “One guy in Sweden wants to put two in a container and ship them to me, as he said, ‘to rescue them.’” 

For more information visit vintagegoldcup.com.

A restored cockpit is outfitted with brand new running rigging.
Walter Cooper photo


A restored deck gleams in the sunshine.
Walter Cooper photo


A vintage Star cockpit gets restored in
Walter Cooper photo


A vintage Star gets a new bottom.
Walter Cooper photo 

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