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Viareggio, Italy (June 9, 2010) -- USSTAG’s George Szabo and Mark Strube were the top American - and North American - finishers in the third race today at the 2010 Star European Championship in Viareggio, Italy. During the first leg, the wind was blowing 12-13 knots, but it then decreased to 6-8 knots for the rest of the race. Today’s course consisted of five legs of two-mile beats. 

Szabo StrubeRace report from George Szabo:

“You’d think that after sailing in several large fleets this year, we would be used to it by now, but it is still taking a while to get used to 130 boats on a starting line. The start is critical, and speed is king in the long races (one per day). We were fortunate today to get off the line well and head for the favored side on the first beat.

On the run, the wind came in from behind, which helped consolidate the first 50 boats. Being in the top ten at the time, that made the end of the run pretty entertaining, and the leeward mark roundings were 5+ boats deep behind us. After the leeward mark, going up the second beat, there were so many boats still coming downwind that by the time you clear the downwind fleet, and are able to tack, there is over a half mile of separation between you and the boats that went to the other gate. There is no tacking and clearing after a poor leeward mark rounding.

Pressure left paid again on the second beat, and the second run saw the same pressure filing in from behind to bring all the boats together again at the leeward mark. My crew, Mark Strube, made some excellent placement calls that allowed us to round just in front of a noisy group (I learned some new French words there) and held on for third today.”

Race report from Mark Strube:

“Today started out great. We had our morning meeting, as usual, with the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics as well as some of the other U.S. Teams. Mark Ivey is doing a great job in the morning meetings with his observations from the previous day as well as getting a few weather reports from various sources.

As we headed out to the course, the wind was very light. We are using one of our lighter mains and thought we made the right call. As we moved closer to the start time, the wind started increasing beyond what we feel comfortable with this sail. George did a good job of trying out different rig tunes, until we got to the one that felt the best.

One thing we noticed today was that the line was a little shorter than the two prior days and the midline boat was also poked. Looking up the course, we felt the left had better pressure and decided to start down toward that end.

Our start was good with no boats too close, so we had a great lane out to the left. As it turned out the left paid, and we rounded in 7th. Our downwind speed wasn't that great, but we managed to only lose a few boats on the first run. We did however stay out of trouble and had a good rounding. On the next beat we hit the left side again, staying out of most of the chop from the boats coming down. We played a few shifts and moved up to third.

The final run saw a decrease in pressure early, allowing some of the boats just behind to catch up. As we got further down the run, the boats that were many boat-lengths behind, were now knocking on our door. We had to stay in front of a pack to keep us in the hunt. George did a great job after a little coaxing to get low and stay in front of a big pack. That really helped. We were the third boat rounding the right hand gate, looking downwind, allowing us to head to the left. The pressure started to decrease and a few boats, NZL and IRL were just behind. We had a few lee bow situations with them but kept our starboard tack advantage on them leading them to the finish. So there we were in third.”

After three long races, three USSTAG teams have moved into the top six of a deep, 132-boat fleet: George Szabo/Mark Strube (fourth), Andrew Campbell/Brad Nichol (fifth) and Mark Mendelblatt/ John von Schwarz (sixth). USA’s Rick Merriman and Austin Sperry sit in ninth. The largest Star regatta to date, the Star European Championship runs through Sunday, with one race scheduled per day.

“The strength of the top teams is the ability to continue to move forward from their weather mark positions,” observed Coach Mark Ivey. “The U.S. team has done just that in the last two races and achieved keeper races. Today, each U.S. team moved up significantly and all four teams finished in the top 15. We are now only half way through and with 130 boats and light sea breezes forecasted, the advice is to not think about overall scores but to get to the top mark inside top 20 and know it is a very long race track with lots of opportunity.”

Photos by Fried Elliott:

Andrew Campbell and Brad Nichol regatta reports:

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