Saturday, December 17, 2011

Clarke & Bjorn Finish 8th in the Medal Race at ISAF World's

Despite having to do a 720 degree penalty turn after being in fifth place at the first mark, Clarke and Bjorn fought back, sailing their Star to finish eighth in the final medal race at the 2011 ISAF World Championship in Perth, Australia. This gives them a tenth overall for the regatta.

The Start:
Montrealer Tyler Bjorn and BC native Richard Clarke had a fine start near the Race Committee boat, but it, of course, was a congested crowd. Of the 10 boats qualifying for the medal round, 6 of them chose the RC end. Clarke swung the bow up and down jostling for air and position for the last 20 seconds before the gun. The Polish team of Kusznierewicz & Zycki pointed right at the pin, and entirely alone, spurted out ahead of the fleet. The German team on #8414 saw the opportunity and followed the Poles left.

4 teams sailed from the start on the Canadians' windward side. The Swedes immediately ducked sterns to go right after clearing the RC boat, followed by a different German team on #8340 looking for clear air. That left the French right on Clarke & Bjorn's leeward hip, and the Norwegians a little more to the right. A cluster of teams sailed on the windward side of the Canucks, essentially all in the same pack. Clarke/Bjorn tacked out ducking the French and Norwegians to head right followed by the Americans and Brazilians.

Windward leg:
When the Swedes and Germans came back from the right on starboard, only two minutes into the race, the Canadians tacked to leeward and so did the Americans and Brazilians. Clarke/Bjorn led the pack back to the left in 6th overall. As boats bailed out of the cluster, the Canadian team pushed forward on the same tack.

Then, at three and a half minutes, Bjorn/Tyler tacked onto port sailing the same direction as most of the fleet. Crossing the rhumb line only a little more than four minutes into the race, they are already about a quarter up the short leg of a short, fast race.

By this point of the race, the Poles and Germans on 8414 who started alone at the pin and went left, sailed alone, and were in a strong leading position, first and second. The remainder of the fleet then all lined up side by side, all sailing on port tack, and about 10 to 15 metres separated them in terms of distance from leading boat. Clarke/Bjorn were now fourth.

It's all pretty close, and the Canadians bounced up and down in the standings in the tacking fleet. With no one reaching the laylines just yet, the Canadians made a bold tack, moving alone onto starboard, below the windward mark. This tactic helps them move into third position. Then, coming back at the fleet on port tack, they mix it up and jostle their way in to the layline. The whole fleet is jam packed in tight. Clarke/Bjorn get onto the starboard layline in 5th, but somehow manage to round the mark through the crazy melee of boats in 4th position.

Leeward leg:

Moving down the course, Clarke/Bjorn went left of the fleet, and were maintaining fourth to fifth position overall. Well to the left, they then spun the boat in two circles, a 720 degree penalty turn! This immediately put them into last position, tenth, and about 200 metres back from the leading Polish team. This was 14 minutes into the race. That sure seems like a heckuva lot of action for less than a quarter-hour!

Second Windward Leg:
The fleet passed through a leeward gate, still led by the Poles who go left to windward until they run smack up against bending land and tack. The Canadians went through the gate well back in tenth. Initially, they also headed to land, but then broke off to sail unhindered to the right. The fleet worked their way up without any consistently favoured or long tack. The Polish team rounded the windward mark all by themselves in first place. The Canucks are well back, still in last place working to windward. Then, below the windward mark, they repeated their methodology of the first windward rounding. They tacked to starboard still a good ways below the layline, and were sailing in relatively unhindered wind. Most of the boats then are mixing it up around the mark or on the starboard layline. Clarke/Bjorn continued to sail fast on starboard below the layline, and moved up, now into 8th place. The Swedes and Americans who were ahead on the same tack became involved in a pissing match and screwed each other up as they went out to the port layline. The Canadians opted not follow them, and instead tacked towards the starboard layline. The Americans and Swedes then approaching on port have to alter course to avoid boats, including the Canadians who just round ahead as the battling last teams approach.

Second Leeward Leg:
Bjorn and Clarke made good headway downwind, and are now in a position to attack a French team in 7th. All of this time, the Polish team that started by itself at the pin, continued to sail far ahead all by its lonesome, and unhindered by boats behind. The entire fleet has sailed a downwind course to the right side directly at the same bending land barrier. At only 36 minutes into the race, the leading Poles went through the leeward gate and made their short dash towards the finish line to the right. The Canadians finished in eighth position comfortably ahead (by roughly a hundred metres) of the Americans and Swedes who are still locked in battle. The Polish team of Mateusz Kusnierewicz and Dominik Zycki finished the race victorious, in a little under thirty-seven minutes. The Canadians finished the short, intense racing in a little under 38 minutes.

The Penalty:

Montrealer Tyler Bjorn and BC native Richard Clarke were flagged for kinetics. Clarke assumes the penalty was given for rocking the boat, difficult to avoid in waves. Were it not for that foul, they may have been able to strike for the podium. Their impressive finish, tenth overall in the regatta, both qualifies Canada for the 2012 Olympics in London in the Star Class, and Clarke and Bjorn as Canada's representatives. They will certainly be exciting to watch. Their challenge now is to find that last little missing puzzle piece to make that small and most difficult graduation from top ten in the world to top three and the Olympic podium.

Guys, congratulations on a super race from Montreal Sailing.