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This Article Last Updated: Oct 14th, 2010 - 15:13:49 

European Championship Reports from Campbell/Nichol and Clarke/Bjorn
By Canadaian Yachting Association and Andrew Campbell
Jun 14, 2010, 14:22

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Andrew Campbell and Brad Nichol (USA),
Photo by Fried Elliott.
Andrew Campbell/Brad Nichol: Second at 2010 European Championships
With a fifth place finish today in a better-than-forecast 5-10 knot westerly, Brad and I tied with Richard Clarke and Tyler Bjorn of Canada to take second place at the Championships behind only Germans Johannes Polgar and Markus Koy in the 132 boat fleet. After sitting in sixth going into today, a lot of people needed to have tough luck for us to move up the leaderboard and really all we could do was sail our best race to ensure a good final result. We got out into a nice lane after a mediocre start and took a long righty across to the top left of the course which put us fourth around the windward mark. We held that most of the way around the track and could only watch as the other teams ahead of us in the standings struggled to catch up through the entire race. We put as much heat on the rest of the teams as we could but luck was also on our side moving us to as high a position as we could have achieved: second overall.

We’re very excited about this finish. What a great day for San Diego Yacht Club, and another strong performance by US Sailing Team Alphagraphics! Coach Ivey really held us together through a grueling, light-air week, and I think the US Team put up a strong front with our 1215 daily line-ups. By the end of the week there were lots of boats that wanted to see how they would line up against us. All the guys sailed well. The points spread in the top ten was tight because of the extraordinary series that everybody had amongst the biggest fleet in class history. Consistency was our gameplan from the get-go, and that paid off (actually after studying the results we had the best overall six-race series, edging out the winners by a point!).

This regatta has put an exclamation point on a long trip to Europe for me. I’ve been here since April 28th, delivering the boat from Weymouth to Italy to Holland to Italy and back to Weymouth, training and racing in Garda, and training and racing in Viareggio. 50 days in Europe is quite enough for me, but the hard work has paid off, and the training we did in Garda and here with Coaches Mark Ivey and Leandro Spina helped us make clear progress.Without a doubt none of this could have happened without the sponsors of USSTAG, but also our team sponsors: Sperry Top-Sider, Keanon Polarized, North Sails and Harken, as well as a number of critical donors to our campaign.


Richard Clarke and Tyler Bjorn (CAN).
Photo by Fried Elliott.
Clarke and Bjorn win Bronze!
Day 1 Report:
132 Star competitors have assembled in Viareggio, ITA to contest the 2010 Star European Championships. The entry sheet reads like the who’s who of sailing including, multiple Olympic Medallist Torben Grael and Marcelo Ferreira (BRA), 2008 Star Silver Medallist Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada (BRA), World Champion and Olympic Medallist Fredrick Look and Johan Tillander (SWE) and multiple Olympic Medallist Mateusz Kusznierewicz and Dominik Sycli just to name a few. Canada’s contingent is led by 3x Olympian Richard Clarke and Tyler Bjorn hot off their first Star class victory in Nassau and includes Olympic Silver Medallist Mike Wolfs crewing for class new comer Stuart Hebb, and 2x Olympian Oskar Johansson and Jamie Hynes.
The first day of racing was held in light and variable conditions, best described by Richard Clarke, “with 132 boats on the line, it took 7 minutes to sail the full length of the line” , Clarke further described the day “flapping sails, slapping hulls, screaming Europeans and intense heat, made for stressful competition”. None the less the Clarke/Bjorn duo kicked off their European debut in fine form in what is best described as their “least comfortable conditions”, finding themselves as high up the fleet as 5th before finishing 7th for the day. A formidable start to this event to say the least.

Day 2 of the Star Europeans was a long and arduous affair in achieving a single race. There was a lengthy on-water wait for the breeze to fill in and then two general recalls before racing finally got off in extremely light and variable conditions. Keys on the day for the Clarke/Bjorn team were, “avoiding the windless holes and remaining patient”, as the race progressed the windless holes became gapping holes that were next to impossible to avoid but rather one had to negotiate the barren wastelands.

Although unimpressed with their start the Clarke/Bjorn team dug through some traffic and poked out with the lead group, eventually rounding the first weather mark 3rd. After a trying run the team hung onto their 3rd place position at the first leeward mark. “We didn’t do our best work” on the second windward leg Clarke commented, eventually dropping 4 spots to sit 7th. The final run was a further test of patience with Clarke describing the action as “a painful slow slog, again it was hot, with sweat pouring down your back, while trying to coax a ¼ knot of boat speed out of each opportunity”, the team ultimately finished 7th in race 2. Clarke further comments that “our pair of 7’s finds us in 2nd overall, but it is still the early days in this event and one small slip can easily drop you back to the 60’s”.

Day 3 – Missed Opportunity:
Day 3 at the Star European Championships started off looking promising with a nice 10-11 knot SW breeze, some waves and a whole new outlook on racing. The Clarke/Bjorn duo got off the line well and worked the left side, emerging at the weather mark in 2nd. With a solid run the race looked to be shaping up to be a match race between the Canadian team and the top ranked German crew. Then everything started to change.....

The wind started to shut off and become spotty, Clarke commented, “why...is it the sea breeze trying to develop, is there going to be something one way or another that is more important...” Unfortunately the choice to work more right did not pay off and a loss of 7 boats occurred. After a solid run the final beat again looked like a left gainer and ½ way there all was looking good, unfortunately the right materialised and 4 valuable points were lost. None the less “we are still nicely in the hunt” Clarke commented at the mid-way point of the event. This 9th place finish to go along with a pair of 7’s puts the team in fine shape heading into the second half of the event.

Day 4 – Consistent:
Richard Clarke and Tyler Bjorn have been a model of consistency over the course of the first four races at the Star European Championships. With a 7 - 7 - 9 - 8 scorecard the team finds itself in the thick of things, sitting 2nd overall only one point behind Johanne Polgar and Koy Markus of Germany, and 14 points ahead of the third place team of Mark Mendelblatt and John Von Schwarz of the USA.
Race 4 was delayed as promising early conditions deteriorated and the competitors were again forced to wait for the light and variable conditions to stabilize. Clarke and Bjorn commented that they seem to have a formula that is working for them, "start conservatively, use our superior speed to get into the front group, and try to hold on from there". Sticking with this formula the team got off the line in a "thin lane" towards the favoured pin end of the line, and worked the left side of the course to round in touch with the leaders. On the second beat the team climbed as high as 4th, and Clarke said "that moment came, as it does in every race where you reflect upon your decisions and wonder if you might have done that differently or better". The choice this time was to carry on to the port tack layline and unfortunately that choice cost the team a few boats, to round the 2nd windward mark 7th, a single boat loss on the final run left the 8th and fully in the hunt.

"Things will get a bit shuffled after Friday's race when the drop kicks in but for now we are going to stick with our recipe", Clarke commented as he reflected on the competition to date. With a scorecard that does not include a poor race the team is looking to continue this trend and put themselves in the enviable position of entering the final race with a drop race still in their pocket, that being said the conditions are trying at best and the challenge is immense to remain consistently with the front runners.

Day 5 – Difficult:
After another lengthy delay in getting the racing off, the committee did persevere and managed to get Race 5 at the European Championships in the books. For the Canadian front runners of Clarke and Bjorn they might have wished that the breeze had not materialised. Following "the recipe" that has worked all week the team looked poised to take another run at things, when a wayward starter reaching down the line decided to start right on their lane. What was meant to be a conservative start was now a 2nd and 3rd row start and the first pieces of trouble started to appear. With little choice the team fought gamely for a lane, any lane and finally settled on a couple thin to vanishing lanes to the right. Unfortunately the breeze continued to advantage those in the left and the struggle was now on to "remain in double digits, let alone get back in touch with the leaders." A windward mark rounding in about 100th, gave the crew a new and unwanted vantage on the fleet. Looking for every angle to make some sort of run at the leaderboard the team tweeked and hoped, the final run proved fruitful to the tune of 40 odd boats but none-the-less the damage was done and a 53rd was added to the tally.

The final day is now set up with Polgar/Koy of Germany with a stranglehold on first place, Clarke and Bjorn find themselves tied on 31 points for 3rd just 6 points out of 2nd. As Richard puts it "we have a successful recipe, we just need to execute it one more time" and then who knows where things might fall. Conditions look to remain light for the finale. Stay tuned here for the final race coverage.

Final - Bronze for Clarke and Bjorn:
A 12th place finish in race 6 found the Clarke and Bjorn team tied for 2nd overall and on the tie breaker awarded the Bronze Medal. What an outstanding accomplishment for this Canadian team, now securely establishing themselves amongst the elite of the elite in the Star class. Clarke commented that "it was a little disappointing to lose one boat on the final run that resulted in a tie, and ultimately 3rd overall...but if you had told me at the start of the week we would win the Bronze, I would have been thrilled".

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