British sailor, Iain Percy, was amongst the race favourites that failed to make a splash on the opening day of the Star worlds

George Szabo and crew Austin Sperry solved the weather riddles of Santa Monica Bay and made all the right moves to build an unbeatable lead in the first race of the Nautica 2002 Star Class World Championships. With light, shifty winds forcing the fleet of 105 boats (who are representing 26 countries) to play beat the clock, the American duo sailed across the finish line 3 minutes 21 seconds ahead of the 3 1/2 hour deadline for the 10 1/2 mile race, while a bunch of big names behind them prayed they wouldn’t. Szabo’s finish made it an official race, leaving nine former world champions with finishes of 22nd or worst. Runners-up Mark Mansfield and crew Killean Collins of Ireland were 2 minutes 53 seconds behind, followed by 1990 winner Torben Grael of Brazil. San Francisco’s Paul Cayard, the 1988 champion finished in seventh place. RYA team GBR sailor Iain Percy has made the successful transition from Olympic gold in the Finn class to the bigger two person Star class keelboat. Percy paired up with past Etchells world champion Steve Mitchell last year, to embark on his quest for a second Olympic gold medal. The teams first day out at the worlds saw them finish in nineteenth place, which they were pleased with as there were a lot of high calibre Star sailors that finished behind them. Such as the defending champion Fredrik Loof from the Netherlands who finished 47th and the top-ranked Star sailor in the world, Spain’s Jose Maria Van Der Ploeg, who finished 91st. The event is guaranteed to be one of the toughest on the international sailing circuit this year, attracting a heap of talent including 11 former class champions, four Olympic gold medallists, several America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race campaigners and 18 of the 19 top-ranked Star sailors (the lone exception is San Diego’s Vince Brun). The event is all the more important as the first five countries (but not the sailors) represented in the final standings will qualify for Olympic berths for the 2004 Games in Athens. The forecast for day two is another light day, which should test the sailors to the full. The race committee has moved the start time to 2 p.m. to accommodate for the recent pattern of late-filling breeze. Racing continues through until Friday 23 August, with one race scheduled per day. Results 1. George Szabo/Austin Sperry, USA, 1 pt 2. Mark Mansfield/Killean Collins, IRE, 2 pts

3. Torben Grael/Marcelo Ferreira, BRA, 3 pts

4. Paul-Ambroise Sevestre/Vincent Berenguier, FRA, 4 pts

5. Reinhard Schmidt/Jochen Wolfram, GER, 5 pts

6. Xavier Rohart/Yannick Adde, FRA, 6 pts

7. Paul Cayard/Hal Haenel, USA, 7 pts

8. Dave Watt/Alex Dunn, USA, 8 pts

9. Philippe Presti/Jean Philippe Saliou, FRA, pts

10. Gonzalo Araujo/Marcos Iglesias, ESP, 10 pts team GBR

19, Iain Percy/Steve Mitchell 19 pts For full results, log on to the event website;

Sacha Oswald