International Star Class revisited

The International Star has turned into one of the best, most competitive and rewarding classes to sail in the world, but as with most modern boats it has become more and more expensive.

But the Star was designed in the ’20s (pic right)as the sort of boat a handyman could knock together out of a pile of timber over a winter to go sailing when the weather got nicer.

Maybe it is time to regather that ethos but to build it strong and stiff and simply using modern methods.

Star Class - could they be homebuilt in wood?

I don’t think ANYTHING else need be changed But homebuilt hulls could be allowed that would cost maybe $4-5000 rather than the tens of thousands required now for semi-mass produced foam sandwich boats.

Now a couple of co-incidences – Stars came up on a couple of forum threads I was involved in. On the WoodenBoat Forum woodenboat forum thread

And on the Sailing Anarchy forum where a clever fellow has made a nice mod to get an old star sailing cheaply (and somewhat quickly) Frankenstar

I try to be a bit of an activist in terms of trying to get people to see that building boats in wood is plain good sense. It provides a cheap entre into some competitive classes at not much cost – it allows the classes to grow.

You can see from the posts below and above that there are thousands of people out there wanting to build their own boat – and almost none of them choose class racing boats.

This is what I ended up writing about Stars and the possibility of making the class grow (or any other class that can be built in wood) by allowing a competitive wooden boat to be built that uses modern simplified building methods. It is just that the Star is more suitable than most

Originally Posted by rbgarr “Boatmik (thats me – Ed)- Which Olympic classes are the ones that are built of wood other than the Star?” My Reply: And which of those olympic class boats have growing fleets around the world? The answer is none. All of them have declined in active sailing numbers around the world.

Picture and boat by Christian Lanctot – his boat doing it’s stuff – you can see the original transom.

And I doubt a competitive wooden star could be built – because they are still required to be built of traditional planked construction – they don’t allow plywood!!! Or timber/glass composite.

Read the class rules here – see section 1.6 Wood construction – the wooden building method is straight out of the 1920s – they even require screws and nails which no-one interested in modern lightweight timber boats has used for a decade or more.

The picture right shows boats being built in the 1930s – it is possibly time things were changed.

If it was allowed I (or anyone else using modern methods) could have a hull built in three weeks that may be totally competive with the best foam sandwich boats in the world and they wouldn’t even need to build a strongback and molds – it is usual to make the sides and bulkheads self supporting. (see the pdr construction in the blog below or all the other boats on I know I can make it lighter – so if a conservative approach is used to build to the same weight as existing boats a lot of the normal internal timber structure could be eliminated and the result would be a boat with a very clean interior.

What if people could build a competitive Star hull in wood for around $4000 rather than the tens of thousands they cost now in foam sandwich?

There’s nothing to the structure – it is perfect for modern timber construction – all could be ply and the bottom (as it is compounded) could be built of wide cedar strips glassed both sides – take a day to plank it up.

It really is a handyman level project because of the simplicity of the hullshape and would take a full three weeks if the hull construction method was thought through properly – then the keel and skeg, rudder etc..

What if the Star Association could get another 5 or 10 or 50 people into the class through home building? It could be one of the strengths of the class. But, hey, lets be realistic – no-one from conventional classes is going to be reading this or has any interest whatsoever in departures from what they are doing now.

Altering an old wooden boat to be a race winner.  New keel, new rig

This is an old boat Duckflat and I modded up. using modern methods we pulled 300kg out of the structure but kept the character – performance wen up more than a little too. link

The star is a really good example of what I was talking about before -the crazy arms race.

The class had close racing in 1929 and anyone could build one – they were a handyman project. And racing was close and hundreds of people became involved. RAcing is still close but ppl are forced to spend tens of thousands ($100K for a campaign?) to do it because if one has flash gear – everyone else has to as well.

That’s why all the current classes are so expensive. I have a standard quote for the shroud adjustment system on a 505 on my computer. $759. Getting rid of shroud adjustment would make the 505 the best part of a thousand dollars cheaper.

OK – it is a senior class and there should be senior sophisticated classes – but most of the basic classes have fallen prey to the same thinking.

I did build a couple of PDRacers for $300 each with some scrounging of materials – but to get a couple of kids racing I have to spend $7500 for a foam sandwich, mylar sailed, Harken blocked beginners class so they can be competitive. Or an Opti for $5000. That is 25 PD Racers – if I could scrounge enough materials – or around 8 if I had to buy all the bits retail. And people involved in the conventional sailing classes and their organisations wonder about the falling participation rates and argue for the status quo.

10 thoughts on “International Star Class revisited

  1. Would love to get my hands on a Star plan to see what can be done with limited funds and skills. As you mention, this design is a perfect match for easy and cheap modern plywood construction, something I am looking for for a long time now without succes. The classic looks combined with the very uncomplicated hull shape are a unique combination that could appeal to many home builders out there!

  2. Okay, call me crazy…but i would LOVE to build a star using modern plywood construction/cold molded bottom…’s the kicker..i would like to increase it’s size by 25-30% and add a low profile cabin.

    • Hi Kasha,
      Nothing wrong with doing something crazy.

      You just have to accept the results whether they are good or bad.

      It would be a cool looking boat, but I wonder. The Star is a beast in stronger winds – I think that is why a lot of the sailors love it – because not everyone is good enough to sail one. But that might not be compatible with your other aims of having a cabin.

      The increase in size would increase the stability somewhat and possibly give you more weight to put in the keel as the hull could be lighter than the original in proportion which would help too. The rig would have to be scaled away from the bendy, somewhat twitchy masts of the Star as well.

      But at the same time … it could be very cool if you worked out those problems.

      Best wishes

  3. Wow!! Thanks Michael…

    Been looking for an elegant boat to build using modern wood/composite construction techniques for a long time. When it comes to ease of build and shear beauty…have yet to find a design that I like as much as the Star.

    Thank you for sharing your insight!!!

    Will scale it back closer to the lower aspect original, and lose the bendy mast but…ahhh that gorgeous Star sail!


  4. Hi Michael and others

    I have just discovered your web and blogs, which have cost me two days of productive work so far….:)

    I specifically focused on this posting because it addresses a major crisis in sailing here in South Africa as well as (it appears) much of the rest of the world. Sailing is being killed by the cost of competing, and as Michael comments, probably not even justifiable costs for the bulk of sailors not aiming at the very pinacle of sailing competition. Thank you for the insight, now to find a way to drive this home….

    The second point I wanted to make is the Star specifications make provision for a “way in” for the proposal Michael is making, they offer provisional measurement certificates for experimental material and manufacture, which can become permanent subject to review and vote, etc. How serrious they would be about embracing a low cost home-build approach would need to be seen, especially if the builders of the expensive versions are involved in the vote.

    But I guess if anyone is really interested and has the time, they could go after this approach. Unfortunately not for me at the moment, I am already building a boat, and it would be a bit pointless here in South Africa as I doubt we have enough Stars to compete against.

    Regards to all

    • Hi Richard,

      That was written a few years ago and the creeping of boat costs hasn’t abated with much more than the hull cost being pumped up past what the market can bear.

      Now I think that the solution is that existing classes will be supplanted by DIY boats again.

      As an example the heavily promoted O’pen Bic has been designed from the ground up as an Opti Killer, seeing that Optis have priced themselves out of the market (if you want to set one up seriously)

      But it doesn’t deal with the fact that you can build something using the same materials as the Opti for around $400 and that can include the sail.

      Think of where the opti would be at if that had been maintained!

      Same too for the bulk of beginning and intermediate boats.

      The crazy thing is that yachting authorities and class associations still believe the myth that more spray and more high tech will allow sailing to compete with Playstations.

      But this has pushed up prices, so all the classes can do is poach members from each other as new entrants in conventional sailing classes are few and far between.

      But outside all of the failed marketing approaches there is lots of growth in building boats that will never be raced at any conventional club.

  5. I have a collection of plans for the Star as both PDF and digitised for a 48″ scale model.
    If interested contact me. I can also supply frames for models at 36″, 1metre, or 48″.

    Cheers, Colin

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