A familiar pattern started to emerge on day three for the Finn class at the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta at Weymouth & Portland. Two more wins for Ben Ainslie (GBR) has given him a useful nine point lead over Giles Scott (GBR), who moves up to second after a third and a second, while Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) drops to third after a sixth and fourth place.
After several postponements due to the wind shifting and strengthening, the first race of the day got away around 11.30 in 18-20 knots. World champion Ed Wright (GBR) started to produce the form he is famous for, leading round the top mark as the wind continued to increase. But regatta leader Ben Ainslie (GBR) wasn’t far behind and the chase was on. By the first leeward rounding Jonas Høgh Christensen (DEN) had taken the lead from Giles Scott (GBR), while Wright slipped to third. Ainslie had eased into third by the second windward mark and then cruised into first place on the second run to lead to the finish. Høgh Christensen held on for second while Scott took third. Early race leader Wright could only manage a ninth.
After a course move, the second race of the day – race five of the series – started in a gusty 18-20 knots of breeze and increased to more than 25 during the race. Ainslie was clearly intent on sending a clear message to the British selectors and led round the top mark with Wright and Dan Slater (NZL) close behind. Zach Railey (USA) moved up to third on the downwind and then Scott made his move into second with Railey hanging onto third. At the finish, Ainslie took his second win of the day – and the third of the week so far – with Scott still in second and Railey ending a great day in third.
With the wind now gusting to 30 knots on many parts of the Weymouth Bay the fleet was sent ashore, once again without catching up with the programme. The Finns are still one race behind.
Ainslie said of the day, “We raced more inshore so it was a little shiftier on the first beats, though there was slightly more breeze than yesterday. In the first race I had a great second run which got me the lead and in the second race I was ahead from the first mark.”
“I feel okay about sailing in the windier conditions now. I'm quite small compared with some of these guys but my speed is okay. It's a bit of everything coming together well but it's also been tricky tactically.” Were they up for a third race? “No, we were all pretty spent.”
“I come back in from a day like today and my body is aching, but it’s all about testing yourself so it is satisfying to get two good results. We have worked hard technically on the boat and physically on my fitness so it’s good to see that hard work paying off. I am happy with how things have gone so far but there is still a long way to go this week.”
Though Ainslie seems to have returned to the top of his form, second placed Scott is not phased by it. Is is happy with his own performance so far? “Yes, I'm becoming increasingly happy, although I felt as if I was always on the come back from the first mark rounding. I need to start getting around the first mark in better contact with the leaders.” On the racing today, he said, “I think the key today was being fast upwind and not making to many wrong decisions on the shifts.”
The World No 1, Zach Railey, also had a better day today. After some average results on Tuesday, he put himself right back into medal contention with a 4, 3 to move up to sixth overall.
“Moving course areas was a good decision by the RC. We raced on the 49er area today. I'm not sure we would have got the second race in on our course given that its usually windier on the outer course. So that was a great move today by the RC.”
“I used what I learned yesterday about the wind and did not make the mistakes again which was a huge positive from today. The wind is very difficult to figure out here. I still have some speed issues to work out but we will figure it out.”
Railey spoke about his preparation for this event. “We have spent a good amount of time training in Weymouth. I missed the Delta Lloyd Regatta to train here during the event. As it is one of our trials venues and also the Olympic Games venue, knowing it well is a huge advantage. Weymouth is a very tricky place to sail and I don't think you can ‘figure it out’ but just spending time here makes you more comfortable with what you will be facing while racing here.”
How well does the team work together? “We have really adapted to a new team process and we have been training as a team for a long-time now. I think it’s great and we are seeing the results improving all the time. We push each other to make each other better so that whoever goes to the Games has the best chance of success when they get there.”
Tomáš Vika (CZE) is the sole Czech entry this week in the Finn fleet, with the top Czech sailor and four times Olympian Michael Maier (CZE) concentrating on the defence of his World Masters title next week in Italy. He said “I came to Weymouth straight from Medemblik. This area is perfect for sailing with stable wind conditions and is mostly windy. The only problem for me is that I feel always cold here. Both Portland and Weymouth are nice and the people are friendly; only the roads from the Academy to Weymouth centre is full of traffic jams.”
“My goal is to improve my sailing and become familiar with the racing area. I gained 10 kg compared to last year, but I'm still fighting more with myself than the other competitors.” Vika lies in 36th place after an amazingly consistent 34, 34, 32, 32, 34 so far this week.
The race committee will again attempt to run three races on Thursday to catch up with the programme. There are just two more days of qualifying races left before the medal race for the top 10 on Saturday 11th June.
Results after five races:
1 GBR 3 Ben AINSLIE 5
2 GBR 41 Giles SCOTT 14
3 CRO 524 Ivan KLJAKOVIC GASPIC 14
4 NZL 1 Dan SLATER 17
5 DEN 2 Jonas HØGH-CHRISTENSEN 22
6 USA 4 Zach RAILEY 25
7 GBR 11 Ed WRIGHT 28
8 FRA 112 Jonathan LOBERT 33
9 GBR 85 Andrew MILLS 34
10 GBR 88 Mark ANDREWS 37
Event website: www.skandiasailforgoldregatta.co.uk