In Spring 2023, Royal Vancouver Yacht Club (RVYC) will host the 2023 Star Class North American Championship in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the English Bay Star Fleet (EBSF). With 30 to 50 entries on the starting line and some of the top sailors in the world, it will make for exciting racing!
The Star Class is a 23ft, two-person, one-design racing keelboat designed in 1910. It was an Olympic keelboat class from 1932 through 2012, when keelboats stopped appearing at the Summer Olympics.
RVYC was granted a Star Class charter in 1922; the first fleet outside the United States to receive one. RVYC Member Harry Wylie and his crew (E. Ratsey) sailed in the 1923 Star Worlds and placed second. In the 1925 Worlds, Hazen Phillips and Charles Davis represented RVYC and came second. These teams established the credentials for the new fleet in the Star Class.
The popularity of the new class was also evident during the visit of the Special Services Squadron of the Royal Navy to Vancouver in 1924. Officers of H.M.S. Hood, H.M.S. Repulse and H.M.S. Adelaide were given an opportunity to show their skill in yacht racing. A special regatta was held on English Bay in their honour. Teams of two Star boats each were manned by officers of the Hood, Repulse and Adelaide respectively. The Hood team won.
The best story was when Star sailors Harry Wylie and Hazen Phillips represented Canada in the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. The 8 and 6 Metre RVYC crews had won silver and bronze respectively, and in the Star Class, Harry was tied with Sweden for the Bronze (today each crew in a tie for bronze tie would receive a medal). Harry and crew packed up their boat and hit the bar, but to their dismay learned the next morning that a sail-off was scheduled as a tiebreaker. The Swedes sailed around the course alone to win the bronze!
Meanwhile, back in Vancouver, the Kitsilano Yacht Club was founded in 1936 and embraced the Star as the one-design of choice. This brought an increase in the numbers of Stars competing in English Bay and a rivalry between the two Clubs. After some head-knocking among the competing clubs, saner minds prevailed, and the two fleets merged to sail as the English Bay Star Fleet.
Vancouver has many of the top performers in this Class. The late Fred Dill of Kitsilano Yacht Club won more local regattas than almost all other contestants combined. Ross Macdonald competed in four Olympics and took home bronze and silver, as well as won the Star Worlds in 1994. Bill West, Dave Miller and the late Bill Burgess also competed in the Olympics. Members of the local fleet have sent innumerable contenders to championships such as the Star Worlds, Kiel Week and North Americans.