Canadian sailors may not have medals in sight in the in Laser and RSX classes at the world sailing championships, but they will continue their battle for Olympic berths in the championship fleets following Thursday’s races off Fremantle, Australia.
Meanwhile, Canada’s top sailors at the worlds, Richard Clarke and Tyler Bjorn in the Star class, had the day off Thursday as they prepare for the final two races in the two-man keelboat series Friday. They are eyeing a top-10 finish and a spot in next summer’s Games in London. They spent the lay day in eighth spot.
Getting to the Olympics “is something that’s been burning inside, and something I haven’t been able to let go,” says Bjorn, whose father, Peter, sailed with Ian Bruce in the Star at the 1972 Olympics. Bjorn’s brother, Kai, was a crew member for Ross MacDonald at the 2000 Sydney Games, where they finished fifth in the Star.
Clarke and Bjorn both formerly specialized in Finn sailing – a one-man dinghy -- but Clarke beat out Bjorn for that craft at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics. They’ve been together in Star for two years. Clarke has been to four Olympics.
The wind out of the south-southeast was not quite as fickle for racers Thursday as it was the day before, when one race was cancelled. It blew at 8-12 knots with less wild variation in wind strength. Wednesday it fluctuated frequently between 4 knots and 15 knots.
In the Laser competition, the fleet has been split into three with the top 49 boats in the championship fleet. Canada has two sailors in that section but neither fared well in the two races completed Thursday. Both Chris Dold and David Wright sailed their discard (worst race) today. Despite this Dold (33rd and 20th) moved up one position over all to 22nd and Wright (27th and 44th) stayed at 32nd. Tom Slingsby of Australia holds a masterful lead after winning five of eight races so far.
With two races left, the Canadians can move up in the final standing but neither one will make the medal race. This means that their Olympic trials will involve a combination of overall results from this event and the Miami Olympic Classes Regatta in January.
In RSX board sailing, both Canadian men in the championship fleet and are in a position to qualify for the top 10. David Hayes is bidding to prevent Zachary Plasvic from finishing in the top 10, so that their Olympic trail gets extended to the 2012 worlds off Cadiz, Spain in three months. The clear leader, with four wins in eight outings is the Netherlands’ Dorian van Russelberghe.
Hayes managed to force Plavsic into fouling him at the start of race 7 and Plavsic had to do a penalty turn. Currently Plavsic is sitting 14th over all, slipping back from 10th two days ago. In Thursday’s trio of races, he had a 10, 17 and 13 and Hayes had a 18, 21 and 42. Hayes climbed in the overall standings from 32nd yesterday to 28th Thursday. Plavsic hold the 11th country position for Canada, easily within the 28 countries that will qualify for the Games at this event.
To second a spot personally – as opposed to the country’s quota position -- Plasvic will need to make up 14 points on 10th place, currently held by Julian Bontemps of France. He needs two races with placings in the top five to have a chance. The RSX fleet has Friday off and complete its series on Saturday.
The 49er fleet, like the Laser, has been split into three fleets -- championship, silver and bronze. Each fleet had only one race Thursday.
Neither of the two top-ranked Canadian 49ers qualified for the championship fleet. Gordon Cook and Hunter Lowden had a good start, closest to breezy shore. But, by the time they were 3/4 of the way up the first leg, the wind had also shifted 30 degrees to the right, putting them at the back of the pack. They came back to about 6th pace in the next two legs but then ran out of wind on the right side of the course again. They finished 27th to sit 34th over all. Jonathan Ladha and Daniel Inkpen were 17th, to sit 32nd.
The Canadian Olympic trials for the 49er will continue in the 2012 Worlds in Croatia in May because no one finished top 10 here. The team with the top finish in Croatia must also win Canada a quota position by finishing within the top 19 countries there. Britain is in the fleet as Olympic host.