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Top Sailors Flock to Lake Sunapee for Marquee Event

  • Terry Fletcher, center, interviews Rick Burgess, who is sailing in the upcoming 2014 Western Hemisphere Championship with world championship sailor John MacCausland while Paul Bradicich films the interview at the Lake Sunapee Yacht Club in Sunapee, N.H., on June 12, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Terry Fletcher, center, interviews Rick Burgess, who is sailing in the upcoming 2014 Western Hemisphere Championship with world championship sailor John MacCausland while Paul Bradicich films the interview at the Lake Sunapee Yacht Club in Sunapee, N.H., on June 12, 2014.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Brian Fatih of Miami wipes of his boat at the Lake Sunapee Yacht Club in Sunapee, N.H., on June 12, 2014. Fatih, who won seventh place in the Star class in the 2012 Summer Olympics, is competing in the 2014 Western Hemisphere Championships, held at the Sunapee Yacht Club this year. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Brian Fatih of Miami wipes of his boat at the Lake Sunapee Yacht Club in Sunapee, N.H., on June 12, 2014. Fatih, who won seventh place in the Star class in the 2012 Summer Olympics, is competing in the 2014 Western Hemisphere Championships, held at the Sunapee Yacht Club this year.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Terry Fletcher, center, interviews Rick Burgess, who is sailing in the upcoming 2014 Western Hemisphere Championship with world championship sailor John MacCausland while Paul Bradicich films the interview at the Lake Sunapee Yacht Club in Sunapee, N.H., on June 12, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Brian Fatih of Miami wipes of his boat at the Lake Sunapee Yacht Club in Sunapee, N.H., on June 12, 2014. Fatih, who won seventh place in the Star class in the 2012 Summer Olympics, is competing in the 2014 Western Hemisphere Championships, held at the Sunapee Yacht Club this year. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

Sunapee — Beginning next week, many of sailing’s biggest Stars will be competing on Lake Sunapee.

The Lake Sunapee Yacht Club is hosting the 2014 Western Hemisphere Championships, drawing the nation’s top “Star Class” racing talent.

One of seven “silver star” events — one step below the “gold star” World Championships, to be held later this summer in Italy — it’s the first event of its kind to be held on Lake Sunapee since it was home to the North American Championships in 2002.

The field of 40 two-person boats (one skipper and one crew) includes reigning world champion John MacCausland, 2012 Olympian Brian Fatih and defending Western Hemisphere champ Augie Diaz. They’ll compete in seven races over five days — conditions permitting — beginning Monday.

“It’s the best of the best,” said Sunapee resident Terry Fletcher, who is handling promotions and will film the races for live broadcasts on the club’s website, www.lsyc-live.com. “It’s something to be very excited about, to have the most athletic sailors in the world going head to head.”

The event will also draw elite officiating personnel, with race officers approved by the International Star Class Yacht Racing Association on hand to design four courses spanning approximately eight miles each. Judges recruited from four countries — at least three must be from outside the U.S. — will monitor proceedings.

“It’s the second largest star boat regatta in the world, after the World Championships,” said event chairman John Chiarella, a past commodore and skipper who will be one of 13 competitors from the Lake Sunapee Star Fleet. “Only the sailors in the top percentiles of their fleets and districts can qualify for this event, so it’s something we’re excited about.”

Star boats were originally wooden, with international racing beginning in earnest in 1917, Chiarella said. A “one design” class of similarly constructed boats, the 22.5-foot vessels with 32-foot masts are now made of fiberglass and the sport has been an Olympic event in all but one edition of the Summer Games since its Olympic debut in Los Angeles Harbor in 1932. U.S. boats have claimed seven gold medals, most recently in 2000.

Next week’s racers will be vying for two trophies: the Sir Durward Knowles trophy, to be issued to the winning skipper, and the Dona Chiarella trophy for the winning crew. While the Knowles award is named for the 1964 gold medalist, the Chiarella trophy was created for John Chiarella’s late wife, Dona, who is remembered for her hospitality toward both Lake Sunapee Yacht Club members and visiting sailors.

Rick Burgess, a Cape Coral, Fla., resident and the chair of the International Governing Committee that helps oversee the sport, has traveled to race at Lake Sunapee more than 50 times.

“I’ve sailed all over the world, including South America and Europe,” said Burgess, who will crew the boat to be skipped by MacCausland, the defending world champ.

“I come here, and it’s right up there with the most enjoyable places to race on the planet. It’s not the biggest body of water in the world, and that’s part of the challenge, but the people at this club are some of the best people you’ll ever meet. I’ve known John Chiarella a long time, and we’ve duked it out a lot on the water. It does get intense, but I’ve never been around a friendlier group of people when the race is over.”

Many Star Class fleets race in much larger bodies of water, such as ocean bays and sounds. Racing on a narrow lake such as Sunapee — just 2.3 miles at its longest width — surrounded by mountains makes for unique challenges, especially for competitors unaccustomed to the setting.

“It’s completely different racing here than it is (in larger bodies of water),” said skipper Will Swigart, who will race with Fatih aboard a boat called Picnic. “The winds and currents are a lot different, a lot shiftier, and that makes for its own challenge. But it’s a beautiful place. You could come here without any sailing and have a great time.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.