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This Article Last Updated: Oct 14th, 2010 - 15:13:49
Originally published by the Canadian Yachting Association.
A solid group of competitors have convened in Nassau, Bahamas for the annual Western Hemisphere Spring Championships. The up and coming Canadian team of Richard Clarke and Tyler Bjorn is among this group that is enjoying solid conditions in Nassau.
The event kicked off with the Henry Knowles Series on April 13th, which saw 28 competitors brave the challenging conditions in a tune-up day to the championships. Race one kicked off in a building 16 knot breeze that topped out in the mid 20’s, the Canadian team of Clarke/Bjorn found the early going to their liking sailing to a first place finish in a tightly contested battle. Race 2 saw the breeze increase into the mid 20’s resulting in a series of adventures for all competitors including our Canadian duo, who survived a 360 degree penalty turn after hitting the windward mark, only to lose their skipper over-board later in the result and ultimately retire from racing for the day. With continued building breeze the PRO wisely sent the teams home to prepare for the start of the Championships.
Unfortunately day one of the series (April 14th) started off much as the previous day had begun with the wind blowing in excess of 20 knots by 9:00 am resulting in a postponement of all racing for the day.
The fleet embarked on a two race day on Thursday. Although the wind had moderated from day one there was still a solid 20+ knots of breeze facing the competitors. Richard Clarke and Tyler Bjorn had an outstanding day putting up a 2 - 1 on the day to claim the overall lead.
The following is a brief synopsis of the day’s challenges as provided by the team of Richard and Tyler:
The day started off with a few nerves as the previous challenges in the Harry Knowles event remained within the mindset of the team. The sail out proved somewhat of an adventure as an incorrectly lead mainsheet resulted in a quick re-rig on the way to the course, not an easy task in 20 knots of wind. Question for the day is what do you use in place of a sponge to dry something you are hoping to have tape adhere to? Well the creative answer was a peanut butter and jam sandwich of all things ....and yes it worked sufficiently to survive the day!
"The course for race 1 was a triangle, windward, leeward....what's up with all this reaching? All I hear is that we never reach in the Star, Tyler has reached more with me in the last 5 months than his entire 10 year career in the Star! Well, we won the pin, were 3rd to the top mark, passed 2 but lost one on the first reach to round the gybe mark 2nd and unfortunately no matter how hard we tried we couldn't move up. Good news was that we didn't hit anyone and I stayed in the boat, SUCCESS! and a solid start to the event."
"The drill was the same for race 2, we tried to get off the pin, misfired a little and hung in a poor lane pinned going left while the early leaders tacked away. Tried to dig back when things cleared out only to see the early leaders coming back on a massive righty. Man, we did not look good. We tried to consolidate but eventually had to go back left when we got tired of looking at the back 1/2 of the fleet. We waited patiently until either the lay-line or a lefty came in and luckily we got both and quickly jettisoned into first place at the top mark. We extended on the first reach, lost some on the second reach but eventually lead at the bottom mark, which we hung onto to and ultimately won the second race."
With 4 races in the books the Canadian team of Richard Clarke and Tyler Bjorn have powered to a commanding lead, adding another bullet and a second to their first day total.
Directly from the team in Nassau: Another good day on the water for Team Clarke/Bjorn, the forecast was for less wind but the gods have decided that this event will be one to remembered for big breeze, broken masts, swimming sailors (yes, another went for a swim yesterday), holed boats, ripped sails and tired sailors. The boat park after sailing today looked like a junk yard of broken and twisted masts with skippers and crews rigging replacement masts or trying to straighten bent sections between a few trees.
First race saw the softest wind of the week and thankfully for our temperamental tiller/rudder connection the committee sent us on a windward-leeward course. Reaches load up the rudder exponentially so we were quite happy not sailing more of those then we have to. We kept to the playbook that has given us success all week, start near the pin, send it left until all the boats tack and take the high lane across the middle- left. Unfortunately the shift went a bit further than expected and we overlaid the windward mark and rounded 2nd. On the first run we experienced the slows for the first time all week, it felt like a sea monster grabbed hold of our keel and wouldn't let go. Luckily we only lost one boat and rounded the bottom mark 3rd. On the second beat and run we found the afterburners again and brought the fight back against the leaders but came up short to finish second.
Now it wouldn't be a natural day if we didn't have a little drama to make things interesting. While we lined up to start the second race the taper on our jib sheet failed and as Tyler pulled the jib in all he managed to do was milk the cover off the rope. He quickly dived down to leeward grabbed the sheet by the core and quickly wrestled it into the cleat. This was going to make it very hard to play the jib as his choices were to use the very thin core that would barely cleat and would chew up his hands or the quickly fattening cover that was like trying to pull on a snake that is shedding its skin. Time to man up and play the jib by the core. So we stuck to the play book - lead left off the pin, wait for the fleet to tack, and tack, but wait when we tack so the core won't un-cleat and we flounder with the jib backed in 20+ while Tyler frantically tries to un-cleat it. Thankfully Tyler got it uncleated quickly and the damage was not that bad. We found our jets again on the first beat and rounded 1st, extended on the reaches while trying to baby the tiller the best we could and then cruised the rest of the way to win comfortably.
Richard Clarke and Tyler Bjorn have captured their first Star title together. With a 5 - 6 on the final day the team held on to win by 7 points over the eventual runners up and secure the 2010 Star Western Hemisphere Spring Championships.
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