Giles Scott (GBR) will take a one point lead into the final qualification day at the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta in Weymouth after another great day for him. The leader every day so far Jonathan Lobert (FRA) slipped to second while Ed Wright (GBR) climbed to third after winning race eight. Race seven was won by Tapio Nirkko (FIN).
While the early forecast was 7-11 knots, it generally exceeded that with Oscar flag raised for the second race of the day for free pumping. After three hard races on Wednesday fitness was perhaps a deciding factor on day four.
The highest climber on Wednesday, Giles Scott (GBR), did it again in race seven leading round the top mark from Allen Burrell (GBR) and Tapio Nirkko (FIN). Nirkko took the lead on the first reach and was never seen again. After rounding the top mark in 12th, Zach Railey (USA) made huge gains through the fleet on the second upwind to finally finish in second. Meanwhile Scott recovered to pull back into third to close the gap on the leaders even further.
With Jonathan Lobert (FRA) finishing eighth and Ben Ainslie (GBR) in 14th, Scott was ready to make his move, and he did that in race eight.
The increasing wind brought Oscar flag out for free pumping downwind in race eight and it turned into a test of fitness and stamina. After having struggled for form, most of the week, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist Rafa Trujillo (ESP) led round the top mark ahead of Dan Slater (NZL) and Railey.
Marin Misura (CRO) moved from fourth to first on the reach while Ed Wright (GBR) also caught up heaps to third and then rounded the downwind gate level with Misura.
Wright took a narrow lead on the second upwind which he held downwind to the finish. Scott moved up to second, just ahead of Misura in third. This gave Scott the best score of the day and with Lobert in 13th and Ainslie in 11th, allowed Scott to take the overall lead by a single point.
A 5-1 for Wright lifts him to third overall while a consistent, but not winning, performance from the European Champion Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) pulls him up to fourth. After a 14-11 scoreline, Ainslie drops to fifth, just five points behind Wright.
Tapio Nirkko “Today it was wind from a new direction (NNW). It made it interesting to race. In the first race I took a bad start but I got things exceptionally right on the first upwind playing first on the right side but securing the left side. I got a really good lead which made it quite relaxed sailing for me the rest of the race. On the runs I was taking it easy just to be safe with yellow flags. The second race wasn't as easy but I got it going OK until the second beat.”
“The race course has been quite far out and Finns and Stars have had the most open conditions which is always nice when there are more waves to play with. Weymouth is a nice but also unique place to sail. There are couple things to find out this place like how Portland is affecting different racing areas etc. We have two more years to learn how to be smart and fast on these waters.”
Kljakovic Gaspic said, “It was tough indeed, after good start in first race I had bad first beat. There was no situation that I won in that beat. It was really gusty and wind was so unstable that made all of us bit crazy. After that I have made some come back and finished 16th. Not that good. Second race was better and I finished 5th. We have still two days to go and I hope that following days will be better for me.”
Lobert described his day. “Today it was very tough I think mostly because yesterday we spent around 8 hours on the water and sailed three races. The first race was very tricky. After a quite shifty first beat I managed to be in the top five at the downwind mark with Ben and Giles but on the second beat the wind was shifting so much to the right that some guys quite far behind managed to come back in front of us. I finished eighth and I was happy because it could have been a lot worse.”
“In the second race I had a terrible first upwind. I was very slow and I rounded around 30th. I looked inside of me and I pushed very hard to come back to 13th position. I also had a very fun last downwind with Ben trying to catch some more boats.”
“I am now second overall one point behind Giles but I have no bad races so the pressure is on him now. I will do my best to try getting back the yellow jersey!”
While the points at the top are pretty close, the points for that all important medal race split are also tight with Andrew Mills (GBR), Thomas le Breton (FRA), Brendan Casey (AUS) and Daniel Birgmark (SWE) all within eight points of each other and another four boats within easy striking distance. A string of top 10 results has pulled race two winner Mills back into the top 10, to make that four members of Skandia Team GBR in the top eight overall.
Mills said, “It was a pretty tough day, with a new wind direction so no one was really that sure what was going on. Personally I had two bad starts. In the first I managed to get the rest of the beat right to round top 10 then worked way up to 4th. In the second race, same again although I rounded about 15/16 maybe, but good downwind pace brought me through quite a few boats and up to seventh.”
“Not sure on the forecast for tomorrow but hoping for good breeze and need a couple of top five results to try to bridge the gap ahead a bit.”
The final two qualification races are scheduled for Friday with the medal race for the top 10 on Saturday.
Results after 8 races.
1 GBR 41 Giles SCOTT 31
2 FRA 112 Jonathan LOBERT 32
3 GBR 11 Edward WRIGHT 40.3
4 CRO 524 Ivan KLJAKOVIC GASPIC 44
5 GBR 3 Ben AINSLIE 45.4
6 NZL 1 Dan SLATER 48.1
7 USA 4 Zach RAILEY 49
8 GBR 85 Andrew MILLS 63
9 FRA 115 Thomas LE BRETON 63
10 AUS 241 Brendan CASEY 70
Photos: Tapio Nirkko, Ed Wright, Dan Slater; (c) OnEditon
Full results at http://www.skandiasailforgoldregatta.co.uk/results/Finn.htm