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Clarke, Bjorn lead way for Canada at sailing worlds

Richard Clarke and Tyler Bjorn of Canada compete in the Star Men's Keelboat race on the Leighton Course on December 12, 2011 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Mark Dadswell/Getty Images)

Mark Dadswell/Getty Images

Despite a bent mast in the cool, breezy conditions off Fremantle, Australia, Richard Clarke and Tyler Bjorn had Canada's top results in Star class as the world championships moved into their second week.

Clarke and Bjorn are bidding to qualify for the London Olympics Games and remain in the hunt for a world championship medal. Clarke and Bjorn bent their mast on a downwind leg in race 4 – the day's second voyage -- and coach Steve Mitchell quickly replaced it with a different mast, as the fleets contended with the strongest winds of the championships to date.

While the wind – offshore for most of the day – was to the liking of most Canadian sailors, Clarke and Bjorn slipped slightly from seventh to ninth as a country, with six races to go.

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They are within Olympic qualifying range. Berths in London go to the top 11 countries and to host Britain in the Star class.

Monday was the coolest day yet at 25 degrees Celsius. It was overcast all day with periodic storm cells passing over the courses. Tuesday's conditions promise more of the same and it bodes well for qualifying two Canadian boats in the Star class championship fleet late in the week..

Close on the heels of Clarke and Bjorn in the third race of the series were Canadians Stuart Hebb and 2004 Olympic medalist Mike Wolfs sailed to 14th place. Mike was the Silver Medalist in Athens, sailing with Ross MacDonald.

In the RSX men's sailboard race – split into fleets of 44 and 45 to avert a logjam -- top ranked Canadian Zachary Plavsic had a solid day placing fourth and ninth to sit 11th over all, while teammate David Hayes placed ninth and 12th to sit 20th .

The fast-moving 49ers constitute the biggest class for Canada with five teams. The fleet of 67 has been divided into two qualification fleets of 33 and 34. They will sail a total of 14 races plus the medal race. The skiffs are so much faster than all the other Olympic Classes that they have them sail more races. The races tend to be 25-30 minutes rather that 40 -45 min. This keeps them doing lots of maneuvers' which are challenging on these highly unstable platforms.

Canada's most consistent performers in this skiff class are Gordon Cook of Toronto and Hunter Lowden of Vancouver. The Beijing Olympics, Cook sailed in the 49er for Canada with Ben Remocker.

Their coach Jason Rhodes was very impressed with their speed today saying that "they are clearly one of the fastest boats in the fleet." Rhodes feels that with the speed they showed today, they should be able to manage a 10-15th over all in the race series. In race 2, Cook and Lowden were leading the pack about a third of the way up the first beat. But a late shift caught them off guard and they rounded the top mark sixth. Uncharacteristically, they had trouble bearing off around the mark and they battled to get back to 18th. They sit 30th overall after placing 16th, 18th and 18th in three races Monday. Eleven races remain.

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Any Canadian team finishing within the top 14 countries -- not including Olympic host Britain -- will earn Canada a spot at the Games in London.

Close behind are the fleet favourites Johnathan Lada and Daniel Inkpen both of Newfoundland -- popular in the fleet as they are sponsored by the Newfoundland rum drink Screech. The third-year team is are sitting in 35th over all after placings of 18th, 20th and 19th.

The other Canadian 49er teams are Robert Frost and Tom Arbuckle in 51st; Mat Dubreucq and Trevor Parech in 54th; and Billy Gooderham and Ian Hogan in 55th

Canada has four representatives in the 147-vessel Laser fleet – which has been split into three fleets of 49.

Sitting 30th over all is Chris Dold. Chris had a good day with a third and a 20th in an extremely tough fleet. Close behind is David Wright in 33rd (finishing 16th and ninth); Lee Parkhill in 84th; and Thomas Ranshaw in 91st. There are eight more races plus the medal race scheduled.

Canada has only one team – the young pair of Dana Archibald and Karen Dexter -- in the women's 470 class and they are sitting 40th in a fleet of 48 after two races. The Canadians are racing competently but suffering from inexperience without a strong class in Canada.

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Meanwhile, in the men's 470 sailed last week, Canadians Luke Ramsay and Mike Leigh received the disappointing news that a technical change in the results dropped them out of the qualifying fleet for London Games.

A Dutch Team was disqualified for a measurement violation the evening of Dec. 11. after the medal race. Canada's over all position remains at 29th, but a Swiss boat moved up into the place of the disqualified Dutch and in so doing moved ahead of Canada in the country rankings. Canada placed 20th rather than 19th

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About the Author
Sports reporter

James Christie written sports for the Globe on staff since 1974, covering almost all beats and interviewed the big names from Joe DiMaggio, to Muhammad Ali, to Jim Brown to Wayne Gretzky. Also covered the 10 worst years in Toronto Maple Leafs hockey history. More

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