Despite suffering boat damage and back injury in the pre-start and unable to sail the first race of the day, regatta leader Ben Ainslie (GBR) still made it out for the final race in a different boat to protect his points lead and win the Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofia MAPFRE regatta with a day to spare. Zach Railey (USA) had another good day to consolidate second place while a race win for Chris Cook (CAN) lifted him to third, with just the medal race to sail.
The breeze was finally up in Palma and so were the stakes on the last day of the opening series. Today was make or break day for Saturday’s medal race and the first one to break was in fact Ben Ainslie (GBR) after a pre-start collision and an injured back. I spite of a 23 point lead he still needed one more race to be in with a chance of overall victory.
He commented, “ It was one of those crazy days and a really strange pre-start incident I think because of the big waves and trying to clear another boat which would have caused me to capsize onto another boat. I injured myself in the process and reasonably damaged my boat so there was no real chance of continuing in the race in that state so the best option was to come ashore and luckily there was a spare boat lying in the dinghy park that no-one was using so we just switched the rigs round, came back out and just had to try and get a reasonable race to get round the course.”
“Really I was just thinking about my equipment long-term, so trying to protect the boat as best I could, so it was really a no-brainer to come in and try and find a different option and do the next race. You do have to make those decisions quite quickly and it’s probably a good thing for us to have gone through now in preparation for the Olympics.”
“The boat is fine really, just a hull deck join issue. My back took a good whack from the boom which was pretty painful. It all happened trying to avoid Zach who was surfing backwards down a wave in pre start.”
With finally some wind to end the week, the sailors had a great race and for the first time this week, Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) was up front taking the race win from Jonathan Lobert (FRA) and Chris Cook (CAN). But despite a fourth in the following race for the second best performance of the day behind Cook, it was too late to make the medal race cut.
Postma commented on his week. “This week was very difficult to understand the breeze, I kept searching for a pattern but couldn't find it. I know I need to work on the light wind speed, the good thing is I know what to do. But today was a good day. In the breeze I am still going strong. From now on I look forward to the worlds with 120 boats on the starting line. That will be big fun, and a hopefully a nice event.”
Meanwhile Ainslie had made it back out for the start of the final opening series race. A big right hand shift on the first beat left Cook well ahead of the fleet. He held on to win the race from fellow Canadian Greg Douglas (CAN), while Ainslie recovered from being on the wrong side of the shift to cross in third.
Cook said, “The conditions today were 10 to 18 knots from the south, with lots of shifts to catch and lots of light spots with pressure slowly rolling down from the top. I started at the boat end in both races today. In the first race I worked hard to get to the left side and had good speed so managed to get to the top behind PJ. My downwind speed was pretty average so I found myself fighting with a group of boats at the finish for the third.”
“Before the second race I saw a big cloud rolling down the right side and we were in a left phase so I tacked after the start. After a couple minutes of sailing I was pretty much by myself but could cross the fleet. After I tacked the breeze clocked hard to the right giving me a massive lead on the fleet. Again on the downwind I found I was struggling and the wind was filling in from behind giving Greg Douglas a nice ride right up to my stern. On the last beat I had some great speed and stretched out enough to coast downwind for the win.”
“It was fantastic to see the Canadians first and second in the last race, perhaps a glimpse of things to come!”
Ainslie added, “As it turned it out I was not very quick at all [in the swapped boat] but managed to sail reasonably well and had very good speed downwind and I finished third. So it was a bit of an epic day, but sometimes these things are sent to test you and in a way there were actually some good lessons learned from crisis management. In this instance it helped that I had quite a big buffer in the overall points score.”
Second overall, Railey now has a 14 point margin on third, so barring disaster should take the silver in the medal race. “I had a good day today. There were some huge shifts on the course and I was up there in the first race and flipped on a big wave on the first downwind dropping to the mid 20s and then getting back to 14th so that was a hard one to take.”
“In the last race the ninth was actually a sold result as many of us were buried by a big right shift and almost all the leaders went left. Chris Cook nailed the righty and was gone. Ben had the best comeback getting to third and I feel good about getting back to ninth.”
And on his strategy for the medal race, “Tomorrow I will just go out and try to have the best race and I can and see what happens”
Third placed Cook has the real battle on his hands with five boats behind him capable to snatching the bronze. The closest is Daniel Birgmark (SWE) who has been top three overall all week, but dropped to fourth today after an OCS in race nine. Cook stated, “For the medal race I have a lot of guys really close behind so I will have to sail my own race. I've been starting well and have good upwind speed so I will have to rely on those to keep my position.”
Sixth placed Dan Slater (NZL) said, "Tomorrow will be fun as I think in a bit of breeze the top 10 are all quite even and anyone could win tomorrow's race. Given the points being so close I don't think really you can control five other boats so the plan is go racing and do my best and add the scores at the end."
The medal races on Saturday will be tracked live with TracTrac through the event website at www.trofeoprincesasofia.org. The Finn medal race is scheduled to start at 14.00.