Thursday, August 13, 2009

..oH bOY!

-txt & pic courtesy of


By George

San Diego homeboy George Szabo has continued the tradition of Star World Champions coming out of Mark Reynold's Quantum loft (Sobstad back in the day). Not only did Mark win two titles, but so did Joe Londrigan in 1993. Now ad George to the list!

SA: You've just joined an impressive list of folks who have won the Star Worlds. How remote did that possibility seem when you started off the regatta with a 54th place?

GS: I wasn’t really focused on that at the time. I knew that we had speed, but that first race we got the current all wrong. We went right every beat, and even with the wind shifting right the left was paying. We had a long conversation on the way in discussing how we were sailing together, our communication, and numerous other things. It was a tough talk, but it set the tone for the week. Coming out with a win in race two, I knew that we could climb back, but I was not certain just how far. So every day from there we just worked to get off the line well, get a good lane and stay out of trouble. It wasn’t easy. On the dock after day two, Rick Burges was sure to remind us how I’ve won regattas before starting out with an OCS.

SA: How did you win this event?

GS: I’ve always had good speed in lighter air, and most of this event was pretty light. That was the biggest help. I think Rick Merriman put it best “ . . to win the Star Worlds you need things to go your way for five races. When things go your way you usually shrug it off and say great. To have it keep happening is what it takes to win the Worlds. . .” . The 54th may have been a blessing in disguise. I’m not big on looking at the results every day, but I did realize that I was on page two of the results, and I wanted to be on page one. After the 2nd and 3rd race I realized that I needed to find a way to consistently get off the line. We had some poor starts, and if we broke free we were gone, but if we lost our lane trying to tack free, big scores came. Standard thing really – stay out of traffic, get close to the line, etc. By the time the next few days were over, and the throw out kicked in, I realized we may have overshot on the goal of being top ten, and things were looking good.

SA: You were a point behind hamish Pepper going into the last race. What was the strategy and how did you pull it off?

GS: I remembered that when Ross Macdonald won the worlds years ago he had a similar dilemma going into the last race. His strategy was to get off the line, sail his best first beat, and see how it sorted out at the weather mark. It worked for him then, so I told everyone that was what we were going to do and we went for it. It was a big question – go for it off the line at the favored end and hope you get off the line, or be conservative off the middle of the line, go for the sure start. We didn’t know if one of the other guys would go for it all and we figured if they all did, one of them would come out smelling like roses. Fortunately we had one of our better starts, we were able to tack to the right after a minute or so, and we had a clean lane all the way to the right side. After we tacked we were able to find the others, and we realized they were all going left, so there were a few nerve-wracking moments wondering if our side was going to work or not. It did. Rick named the race course the “Varberg International Speedway” because we went right every beat and did a bear away set every run of every race.

SA: You and Rick Peters have been together for what seems like forever, yet the results weren't always there. What changed for this regatta?

GS: No idea. We’ve sailed together off and on since 1994. So many times that he’s referred to me and the recycling program as a skipper. The past year and a half, we started out just having fun at each event, and enjoying the sailing. We seemed to get into it more at each event, and began improving on all the little things. Earlier this year we were tragic downwind so that was the focus going in the last regatta. Seems that we got enough little things together just in time, but there are still many things we can improve on.

SA: Tell us about the sails in terms of the latest developments

GS: The design for our all purpose sails have been refined by Mark Reynolds for over 20 years. I measured in our Standard Z-4 main, and P-2 Jib. The only difference on the jib was that we recently were able to make the jib on the computer plotter, instead of the Mylar floor patterns. Same shape though. We used the same main and same jib for every race of the worlds.

We haven’t been very good about getting the word out, but during the last few years, Mark Reynolds and I have spent a lot of time working on the light air mainsail shape. There are some special shapes for under 12 knots that can work in one condition. We’ve been modifying jibs as well, and there are two that go a little bit better under ten knots. Since the Olympics, we’ve been working on different jib shapes again. One jib design is really fast from 7-14knots in lumpy chop, but not great in flatter water or windier conditions. If you want to specialize in one condition or another, it can be done, but you can’t change the sails that often – so I typically measure in two of the same mainsail design and two of the same jib design at every regatta. Some of the guys who are trying specialized sails were extremely busy before the race each day – as the switched sails back and forth trying to see which one was faster in the pre-race line ups.

SA: Every regatta has one one really scary moment. What was yours?

GS: Realizing that we just might win was nerve wracking. Just hoping that the boat would stay together until the finish line was stress enough for me.

SA: If you hadn't won, would you have blamed it on the liberal media? (George is a conservative - Ed.)

GS: Of course!

SA: Great job George - what's next for you?

GS: Model boats at the club Friday night, and then I have to lose some weight for the Snipe Worlds in San Diego 4 weeks from now.

Photo from Fried Elliott. Here's a little video of George and Rick at the prize giving. Be sure to see what Peter's has to say about some of the pro sailors....

-txt & pic courtesy of

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