Canada's Star Sailors - Have you ever arrived at an event and seen familiar faces on a new team and said, 'Ah ha! They’re going to be tough to beat. I wonder what took them so long to team up?'
That’s what happened when Richard Clarke, four-time Canadian Finn representative to the Olympics and Tyler Bjorn a long-time Star crew and member of the Canadian Olympic sailing team, arrived at the Star North Americans last year on Long Island Sound.
Bjorn was determined to put together a first class team and devised a plan to that was too good for Clarke to refuse. He secured charter of a PStar, a Star boat design that has only been available since the 2008 Olympics, and asked Clarke to take the helm for the 2009 Star North American Championship.
Both Clarke and Bjorn are well known in various sailing spheres, but the North American Championship was the first time that they showed up at a Star regatta together. Long Island Sound served up crisp, bright autumn days as well as cold and treacherous easterlies with huge swells. Through it all, Richard and Tyler managed to stay among the leaders. They finished second in the regatta and narrowly missed winning a Silver Star, an honor awarded to Star skippers who win a hemispheric championship. Some people sail Stars for a lifetime and never win a Silver Star.
The next opportunity for Clarke and Bjorn to win a Silver Star was at the Star Western Hemispheres in Nassau in the spring of 2010. They had a little practice at the Bacardi Cup in Miami where they finished fourth in a large fleet. The Bahamas was a different story. Each and every day was windy and a lot of boats damaged their rigs in the warm up regatta. Bjorn and Clarke had one disastrous day in which they got tangled up with other boats, sent someone to the hospital for stitches and Richard was swept out of the boat. It just made Clarke realize how much he had to learn about Star sailing.
Knowing how much damage they could do, Clarke and Bjorn’s strategy for the Western Hemisphere’s was to sail conservatively and not put themselves in a position where they were forced to react quickly in the heavy air. It worked. They won the regatta and their first silver star.
Both Clarke and Bjorn are very busy with other sailing campaigns and their young families. When Wind Athletes Canada, an organization that promotes the sport of sailing in Canada, supports training programs, funds and supports members of the Canadian Sailing Team recognized Clarke’s and Bjorn’s potential, they assisted with sponsorship.
Off to Europe Clarke and Bjorn went for the Star European Championship, the largest regatta that the Star Class has ever held. In the light and humid air, Clarke and Bjorn were early regatta leaders. As time went on, others who had a little more time in the Star and were used to sailing wide angles in light or no wind, managed to squeak by the pair. They tied for second on points, but lost the tiebreaker to take third in the regatta.
Their chartered PStar was already in Europe and they had had great results for the season, so why not go to the grand finale of the Olympic Class sailing circuit for the year, Skandia’s Sail for Gold Regatta.
Clarke and Bjorn’s reports during the regatta were along the lines of 'It may be a small fleet gathered here, but there ain’t no slouches!' and 'We still have a lot to learn.'
Keep an eye out for them, because the newlyweds have had remarkable performances at just about every regatta in which they have competed. If they pursue a well-funded Olympic campaign for the next two years, Canada is not only likely to qualify for the Olympics in the Star; it will be a medal contender. If they do qualify for the Olympics, Tyler will join his father and his brother as Canadian Olympic Star sailors. How cool is that?
Richard Clarke and Tyler Bjorn are also racing the new Reichel-Pugh 52, Vela Veloce, where Clarke is the helmsman and Bjorn is a grinder. Clarke is also managing Wind Athletes Canada’s Open 60 program. Their fall and winter plans include a beauty makeover on their PStar, a training clinic In Miami, big boat sailing in the Caribbean and more. www.worldregattas.com