Stars Shoot Over Seneca Lake

Attentive watchers on the shores of Seneca Lake must have wondered about the 50 or so small keelboats skimming fast over the water at the lake’s north end May 18 through 23. The boats were competing in a world-class regatta, the International Star Class Western Hemisphere Championships, hosted by the Seneca Yacht Club in Geneva.

Stars are notable among classes of racing sailboats. First, they have a storied history. Developed nearly a century ago by naval architect Francis Sweisguth, Stars hold the distinction of being the first Olympic class of sailboats, having raced in the games since 1932. Western Hemisphere Championships have been held every year since 1934 in diverse locations such as Nassau (Bahamas), Annapolis, New Orleans and San Diego.

These boats are also noteworthy because the International Star Class Yacht Racing Association diligently enforces stringent rules that make the competitions about skill, not fancy equipment. Every Star is virtually identical at just shy of 23 feet long and not quite 6 feet wide. Any boat competing in Star Class Association events must adhere to strict requirements regarding the size and design of the boat and the sails. Each yacht must weigh the same and use only sanctioned equipment.

This class also has a reputation for being fun and challenging to sail. Though it’s appropriate for novices to learn on, the small yachts still challenge experienced sailors who find the race sufficiently difficult to keep them working hard. Many champions of the better-known America’s Cup races have also won Star regattas.

About 200 sailors and support crew came to the region for the Western Hemisphere Championships. Numerous local organizations and individuals worked to plan for the regatta and ensure the attendees had a good experience, and more than 50 local businesses sponsored it. Regatta Co-Chair Marlene Koberg said, “The outpouring of support from our local communities for this event has been outstanding.”

To learn more about Star Class racing, visit

by Anya Harris

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