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From the initiative of some of the world's best sailors, the Star Sailors League (SSL), launched an international circuit of regattas in January 2013. This new league has been built on the existing circuit of over 220 International Star regattas around the world, using a unified world ranking, created based on the ATP World TourTM, established by tennis players in 1972. Drawing on this inspiration from tennis, the SSL also awards substantial prize money to the best-ranked sailors.
Find out more on the Star Sailors League website here
3-8 December 2018
Nassau, Bahamas
1 - Diego Negri
Diego Negri
2 - Robert Scheidt
Robert Scheidt
3 - Xavier Rohart
Xavier Rohart

SSL on course to shake up sailing

by Louay Habib 15 Sep 2015 11:16 BST 8-12 September 2015

The Star Sailors League Lake Grand Slam on Lake Neuchatel, Switzerland attracted 68 teams from 22 different countries, with 12 Olympic medallist taking part, and in any estimation that is a fantastic success. The winners were George Zsabo & Patrick Ducommun, the USA/Swiss duo won the four boat final to be crowned Swiss Open Champions and win $25,000, a quarter of the $100,000 Prize Purse. George Zsabo is a past Star World Champion and spoke candidly about the SSL.

"Three years ago, a group of Star Sailors sat down with Michel Niklaus to come up with the concept. We didn't even know what we were going to call it then, but when I think about how the SSL has grown exponentially from the meeting, I realise how far we have come in a short period of time. Sailors from other classes have been taking notice and want to get involved; sailors from the Laser, the Finn and other classes and that is really cool."

Michel Niklaus, a highly talented Star sailor himself, has a vision for the SSL, which is quickly taking shape and gaining worldwide acclaim; ISAF have just recognised the SSL regattas as special events alongside the America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race. Michel Niklaus' goal for the SSL is to run five Grand Slam events by 2020. These will be locations chosen for their variation in conditions: Lake, City, Ocean and high wind speed, as well as the SSL Final in Nassau, Bahamas. Michel is quick to point out that he wants to work with ISAF not be a thorn in its side and ISAF are responding. It is also important to point out that regaining Olympic status for the Star is not an objective of the SSL, although the Olympic Committee is well aware of the SSL, IOC President Thomas Bach, attended the SSL Press Conference at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne.

The SSL organisation has invested considerable funds in delivering world class media exposure for the event, which rivals any other sail boat coverage. This does come with quite a price tag, but the SSL firmly believes that they have a product that will give value to parters and sponsors. These funds will be used to increase the prize money involved and the number of sailors that will benefit from it. By 2020, we could see up to 100 teams winning prize money during the season, with some serious money going to the top teams.

Pie in the Sky? I don't think so.

Consider the amount of money invested in big boat campaigns such as the America's Cup, Volvo Ocean Race or Maxi Racing. Attracting just a fraction of that to the SSL would allow the circuit to have professional sailors racing full time for big prize money. The SSL can not compare with other classes for speed but it does allow a huge variety of sailors to get involved. The sailors weight varies from 75-110kg and with an experienced crew, a helm from other classes can compete and win. In the SSL Lake Grand Slam, ISAF World No.1 Finn Sailor Ivan Gaspic, racing with Star crew Josh Revkin, won the quarter finals and semi finals and looked likely winners, before lake weed wrapped around their rudder in the final. Also age isn't a barrier in the class, with the eight sailors racing in the final in Grandson, ranging from 61 to 25 years old.

The format of racing was devised by the Star Sailors. The three day qualification racing is normal but the winner does get a bye for the next round (there is talk of changing that to a bye right through to the final). However, the objective of the qualifying rounds is to make the cut, this virtually takes out the tactic of 'hunting' and promotes the strategy of sailing fast and smart. The final rounds are all sudden death eliminations, and once again, fast and smart is the desired objective.

For spectators who don't understand sailing (virtually the entire world population), the knock out format makes it easy to know what is going on, especially with the Virtual Eye computer graphics. Expert commentary satisfies the hard core, 'petrol head' audience.

Bottom line is that the viewing figures for the SSL Lake Grand Slam rivalled those of other special events, which are sponsored by well known car and watch making companies. The SSL Final in Nassau should be even bigger, including the Prize Purse, which stands at $250,000. I have been involved in the SSL right from the first regatta, and what is really great about the set up is the attitude of the sailors. They are all friends and whilst there is mutual respect, there are no favours out on the race track.

Torben Grael is a fierce competitor and on several occasions over the past three years, he has lost the plot with the media boat, shouting and gesturing in our direction. At the prize giving, I thanked him for not shouting at us too much this regatta. He replied: "It was just that you were too far away to hear me!"

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