Almost two years ago, the California Yacht Club hosted the Olympic trials for the Star Class a few hundred yards off the Venice Pier and in doing so, assembled some of the most accomplished sailors in the world.
When the regatta was complete, 58-year-old John Dane and his son-in-law Austin Sperry from New Orleans were awarded the honor of representing the United States in a class that has always attracted a deep talent pool from all over the world.
In the mix, through those trials and nearly every other high-level regatta, is a local sailor from Marina del Rey who, for the past 18 years, has been deeply involved and devoted to the class. Rick Peters, 46, has worked on Star boats, driven them across the country for other sailors (as a business) and been a crewmember on them in some of the most high profile races this Olympic class has to offer.
But today, the lanky humble crewman with an infectious smile, stands above the fray, a newly crowned Star class world champion, fresh off a brilliant performance in Varberg, Sweden.
“It’s still kind of unbelievable that it happened really,” said Peters of a win that only a select few get to experience. “If you asked me two weeks ago who was going to win the Star Worlds, I wouldn’t have said me.”
With this genuine yeoman’s quality, Peters and skipper George Szabo, who have sailed together off and on since 1994, were relatively unfazed with their 54th place finish in the first race of the prestigious World Championship. They stuck to their game plan, persevered and got a first place the following day. After that, the duo remained consistent and found themselves one point behind the leaders on the final race.
“We kept going right,” Peters said of the last race. “I knew we had it when I saw all those guys go left. I cried my way all the way up the first beat, ‘cause I knew we had the thing.”
And indeed they did. Szabo, a sailor who has been associated with Star boats since he was a child, was in disbelief — convinced that the mast would fall or the boat would suddenly spring a leak.
“Realizing that we just might win was nerve-wracking,” Szabo said in a post race interview with Sailing Anarchy. “Just hoping that the boat would stay together until the finish line was stress enough for me.”
Peters said they laughed and cried as they sailed over the finish line into a realm where so many of sailboat racing’s elite are listed. For many, winning the World Championship would be second only to Olympic gold, but for Peters, the world title is the pinnacle.
“I’d rather have the Worlds,” Peters stated when asked which race he would want if he had to choose. “It’s more what Star sailing’s about.”
And now what it’s about for Szabo and Peters, having earned their third podium win in major regattas, is an Olympic run. Szabo and Peters are currently an officially declared US Sailing campaign and are actively seeking major sponsorship to help them win gold in London in 2012.
JENNIFER DIAMOND CELEBRITY REGATTA
With a fleet of Schock 35s loaded with full adrenaline fueled crews battling each other in the Schock Nationals on their left, the crews in the Jennifer Diamond Celebrity Regatta were taking a different approach as they casually sailed towards the Santa Monica bell buoy. For these sailors, who included local entertainers, actors from the TV show CSI, and teenage record circumnavigator Zac Sunderland, it was simply about showing up for a cause that has far deeper ramifications than well-executed jibes and perfectly called tactics.
The annual Jennifer Diamond Celebrity Regatta raises money for the building of special libraries to assist cancer patients who have rare conditions that require a more specific assemblage of research materials.
Harvey and Alice Diamond started constructing these libraries as a promise to their young daughter Jennifer, who died of a rare form of the disease. Today, the Diamonds say they are about to open their own cancer support center where the eighth library will be installed.
“Anyone can come in and use the facility,” said Alice Diamond of the new operation. “We’re starting in September and we have all kinds of programs for cancer patients and their families.”
The regatta was well attended, with a special crystal trophy given to Sunderland with his round-the-world course etched in the glass.