Richard Clarke and Tyler Bjorn team slides into Key West

Tyler Bjorn (L) and Richard Clarke (r)
Lynn Fitzpatrick
Richard Clarke and Tyler Bjorn are sailing in the sunshine so far this January.

'We had an awesome race,' said Clarke of the Fort Lauderdale to Key West Race in which he steered Vela Veloce, Richard Oland’s Southern Cross 52 to a second place finish to Hap Fauth’s larger Bella Mente., whose corrected time bettered Vela Veloce’s by less than 10 minutes.

Vela Veloce was caught with the wrong sail configuration during the reach and couldn’t follow in the same track as Bella Mente. Without a fractional Code 0, the team had to zigzag along he bottom of the Florida Keys for about 45 miles once they headed westward toward Key West from a point about 25 miles south of Miami. Clarke, the helmsman noted, 'it is a lot easier to do in the daylight than in the darkness.' Vela Veloce crossed the finish line at 1: 37:34 with an elapsed time of 12:42:34.

Bjorn, the biggest man on the boat, came away from his marathon grinding session pleased. 'I did a lot of grinding and had my workout. I lost two kilos on the way down and Richard lost one. We’ll have no problems weighing in for Star sailing at the Rolex Miami Olympic Classes Regatta, which starts immediately after Key West Race Week ends.'

Both Clarke and Bjorn are ecstatic about sailing Vela Veloce. For Clarke, it’s a reunion with his good friend Stu Bannatyne from the 2001-2002 Illbruck Challenge Volvo Ocean Race, Samba Pa Ti and Pegasus Racing programs.

Clarke and Bjorn and the rest of the Vela Veloce team have had two fantastic days of practice in Key West. Bjorn, who is sailing his second Key West Race Week observed, 'It is really interesting seeing all the different teams in their preparation mode. I am like a sponge and am trying to transfer everything that I learn about teamwork and development to our Olympic campaign. I have to say it s the organization of the whole program that really goes unnoticed.

There are so many little details that need to be covered. If you overlook them, things just fall apart or make success that much harder to achieve.'

There will be no cheeseburgers in paradise for the Clarke/Bjorn Sailing Team while it sails Vela Veloce this week. It’s game on and they have a lot of training to do for the next several weeks of big boat and Star sailing.