The Star is the oldest current Olympic sailing class. It is a two person keelboat with 26.5m2 of sail area, this is a huge amount of sail at a length of 6.9m. The Star carries two sails, a mainsail and a jib, there is no spinnaker.
The boat was designed in 1911 by Francis Sweisguth and has been Olympic since 1936. Over 8300 boats have been built since it's inception, of which the International Star Class Yacht Racing Association claims 2000 are still actively racing.
The star is one of the few sailboat classes to carry honorary insignia in the sails. The normal insignia of the Star is a red star near the top of the main-sail. Awards are awarded as follows:
- Gold star
- World or Olympic champion
- Silver star
- Continental or hemisphere champion
- Blue star
- district champion
These insignia are the normal 5 pointed stars to be applied to the mainsail, but they are in the colours stated; a captain may keep the honours he earns for the rest of his life. There is also a system with minor honours and chevrons, but those are never used by competing sailors. For spectators
and sailors these gold stars are an easy way to differentiate the really good sailors from the other competitors. To these competitors it is often a source of pride to have finished ahead of a gold star sailor, and it may even have a shock-effect to suddenly find oneself in the company of several gold stars while rounding a mark
The Star has always been a strictly regulated class, only conservatively adopting new technology. Despite that, the current Star is a reasonably modern fiberglass/epoxy composite boat that has a very long lifespan. Class rules and policy are to limit technological innovation to keep costs down, this keeps older boats and less affluent sailors competitive. For that reason every application of carbon fibre and other modern materials is forbidden.
The Star has such a huge amount of sail-area because it was designed for light wind-conditions. This enables it to keep gliding over the water like an elegant swan, even when many larger or lighter boats have fallen still because of lack of wind. This ability of course wreaks itself in stronger winds; it is near impossible to sail a Star in winds over 6 Bft, even for the best of sailors. The Star is therefore less suited to off-shore regattas and at its best with flat water and moderate winds.