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North Sails NEWS

October 4, 2018

SIX DECADES OF STAR WORLD CHAMPIONS

Success In The Class Began With Founder Lowell North

North Sails was started by a five-time Star World champion, and the event continues to be an important part of our history. Our founder Lowell North’s very first gold star was awarded in 1945, when he crewed for Malin Burnham.

“It wasn’t me Malin wanted,” Lowell explained, years later. “It was my mainsail.”

Lowell started the company in 1957 , the same year he won his first Star World Championship as skipper in Havana, Cuba, sailing with James Hill. “I learned to win in the Star by taking a sail apart and putting it back together until it was a little faster,” Lowell claims. “Sails then were so poorly designed that practically anything you did made them better. As we won more races, I convinced myself I knew what a fast sail should look like.” The Star Class regatta report from Havana says that “North and Hill had their boat moving very fast. Often they found themselves in the wrong place, back in the ruck, whereupon they worked out of it by sailing faster and with better headwork than their competitors.”

Regatta reports from Lowell’s subsequent Worlds wins (1959, 1960, 1973), as well as the gold and bronze Olympic medals he won in 1964 and 1968, reveal similar themes: he was fast enough to get out of trouble, smart enough to stay in front once he got there, and respected by his competitors for fixing anything that broke. Off Newport Beach in 1959, second place finisher Gary Comer reported, “Three-quarters of the way down [the run], Lowell came by so fast I didn’t even bother to luff him.” In 1960, Lowell won again after “rearranging his rigging” by replacing his broken headstay with a backstay.

“Lowell North continued to demonstrate his supremacy over the Class,” announced the regatta report afterward.

Lowell was also respected as a good sport, admitting to his mistakes. In 1967, finishing second by three points to Paul Elvstrøm for the second year in a row, a reporter asked what happened. According to the Star Logs report, “Lowell refrained from kicking him off the end of the pier and only answered quietly, “We got a bad start and sailed a bad race.”

Images © Star Class Log, Lowell North Collection