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Sail Scene Florida November 2006

Florida sailors win gold at European championship

Skipper Mark Mendelblatt of St. Petersburg, Fla., and his crew, Mark Strube of West Palm Beach, Fla., won a gold medal at the 2006 Star European Championship, held Aug. 5 to 13 as part of Rolex Baltic Week in Neustadt, Germany.

In an unprecedented performance at a major Star championship, Mendelblatt and Strube scored three bullets in the first three races and finished with only 10 points, a 15-point lead over three-time Laser Olympic medalist Robert Scheidt and crew Bruno Prada of Brazil. Fellow U.S. Sailing Team members Andy Horton of Newport, R.I., and Brad Nichol of Lake Sunapee, N.H., claimed the bronze medal, at only two points behind the Brazilian team.

While the Florida-based duo held a consistent lead, the conditions deteriorated. Light and shifting wind conditions on the Bay of Lübeck caused racing to be postponed for three consecutive days. With only five out of the planned eight races sailed, debate arose whether it officially constituted a European championship. However, after consulting the Star Class rulebook, race committee officials verified the event was valid, cementing Mendelblatt and Strube’s win.

“We are very happy to win the regatta,” says Mendelblatt, “but it was a tough one, mentally, because we had to sit around with the lead for three days waiting to race. We knew that if we did race, it would be a very light, shifty one, so we never felt comfortable with our lead. Once the last postponement flag went up, it was a huge relief.”

Mendelblatt and Strube depended on upwind and downwind speed under the light conditions of 6 to 15 knots. Mendelblatt says they are always learning the same lessons: “Do not ever let the boat get slow, try to stay positive no matter how bad things look and keep fighting for every inch around the racecourse. You learn by making tactical decisions, based on the risk versus reward, in shifty conditions and try to play the percentages.”

The Star European Championship, ranked by the International Sailing Federation as a Grade C1 event, attracted more than 93 Star boats from 26 countries.