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Canadian sailor Richard Clarke opens up about Olympic disappointment

Richard Clarke and Tyler Bjorn of Canada, sail on Star Men's Keelboat class during the race 3 at the London 2012 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 30, 2012, in Weymouth and Portland, England.

Francois Mori/AP

Richard Clarke, the captain of the Canada's Olympic Star boat, is nothing if not brutally honest about his performances.

So far it sucks and he is the first to admit it. On Tuesday, he and his crew, Tyler Bjorn, jumped the gun at the start line of a preliminary race. Their enthusiasm was rewarded with a disqualification. "I can't begin to explain the emotions I felt," he wrote in his blog. "Shock, disappointment, anger, sorrow. It's the classic agony of defeat, we screwed up and it hurts."

The disqualification put them in 13th place out of a fleet of 16 and only the top 10 get into the finals on Aug. 5 at the Olympic sailing centre in Weymouth, about 200 kilometres southwest of London. Barring a miracle in the form of top places in the next four preliminary races, the boys will not get a medal. Even making the finals is far from certain (on Wednesday, the Star sailors have a rest day).

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"There is no lack of raw talent on this boat and no lack of intense effort," said John Curtis, president of Wind Athletes Canada, who is in Weymouth. "My heart goes out to these guys. … Even if they do qualify for the medal race, a medal will be out of reach."

Clarke bares his soul in his blog, partly because it's in his nature to be candid, and partly because he feels it's his duty. His Olympic campaign is financed through hundreds of thousands of dollars in private donations and he has an obligation to tell them whether the good ship Clark-Bjorn is surfing or sinking.

"We can't change today but we can change our next race," Clarke, who lives in Salt Spring Island, B.C., and is competing in his fifth Olympics, said. "We will fight our hearts out."

With the Star team wilting – the British and the Brazilian boats are the lead candidates for gold – the focus is shifting to the other Canadian sailors. Canada is also competing in the 49er, Laser, Laser Radial (women's), Finn and RSX (windsurfer) classes.

The results overall have generally been middling, though RSX sailor Zac Plavsic of Vancouver is emerging as a dark-horse candidate for a medal. He is ranked seventh overall. He his known for his ability to perform well in high winds that can hammer Weymouth and survived a race earlier this year in 52-knot winds.

Plavsic is optimistic about the next preliminary races. "I am definitely more focused than I have been at any other regatta this year," he said.

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About the Author
European Columnist

Eric Reguly is the European columnist for The Globe and Mail and is based in Rome. Since 2007, when he moved to Europe, he has primarily covered economic and financial stories, ranging from the euro zone crisis and the bank bailouts to the rise and fall of Russia's oligarchs and the merger of Fiat and Chrysler. More

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