Old hands shine
Despite light and shifty sea breeze conditions which brought mixed results for the leaders across most classes, on day four of the Princesa Sofia Mapfre, Ben Ainslie and Dorian van Rijsselberge sailed perfectly claiming victories in the Finn and RS:X Men's classes respectively.
Ainslie had increased his lead to nine points over Skandia Team GBR teammate Giles Scott who is in second and is 24 points from France's Thomas Lebreton lying in third. Skandia Team GBR has a third boat inside the top ten medal race positions with World Champion Ed Wright currently in sixth overall in spite of having to retire from the first race of the day due to a second yellow flag penalty.
Meanwhile Van Rijsselberge is 11 points ahead of Britain's Nick Dempsey and 20 from New Zealand Beijing Gold Medallist Tom Ashley in the RS:X Men.
Otherwise today's tricky conditions distributed high scores to all the favourites and with two more races on Friday, the top ten places for Saturday's medal races are by no means a done deal.
Defending 49er champions, Manu Dyen and Stéphane Christidis from France maintained their lead despite mixed results today - 1, 10 and 20. Pietro and Gianfranco Sibello (ITA) have moved up to second after three top ten places which has seen them build their margin over third. It could have been a perfect day for the British duo of Dylan Fletcher and Alan Sign (GBR). They scored a fifth and a second, but an OCS forced them to count 19 points in race three.
Sign said they are keen to keep the pressure on their older compatriots in what’s a traditionally strong class for Skandia Team GBR. “Being the nippers of the fleet compared to the other guys I think we just need to show our mark here, try and get a medal and that will stand us in good stead for the rest of the year and the selections showing that we can get medals."
Three other British boats are in the top ten after day four of this ISAF Sailing World Cup event, with Paul Brotherton-Mark Asquith eighth, Chris Draper-Peter Greenhalgh ninth and Stevie Morrison-Ben Rhodes enjoying a solid day of 6,3,7 to see them improve to tenth overall.
There were also mixed results for the two French teams who who lead the 470 Men despite collecting their worse race results today. Nicolas Charbonnier and Jérémie Mion lead despite having yet to win a race. They struggled in the first race and took third in the second. Three points behind, last year regatta winners Pierre Leboucher and Vincent Garros read the wind differently with a second in the opening race and a 28th in the second.
“The wind was unstable and tended to favour the left. The last race was long and difficult. In the end we scored a good race and may be back on the podium so not so bad in the end.” explained Leboucher and Garos.
The Greek team of Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis lie third. Races victories went to Panagiotis Kampouridis/Efstathios Papadopoulos (GRE) and Gideon Kliger/Eran Sela (ISR).
The story was the same in the Women's 470 with all top teams collecting high scores.
“It was a very exhausting day.” explained the Israeli team of Cohen and Vered, who have slipped into first place overall despite posting a 22 and a 12 today. “We usually are in the top ten at the windward mark. Today was another story, we struggled in these conditions and had to go with the fleet in the middle to try to gain places. We kept gaining and losing so in the end it was quite stressing. Anyway, the other top girls have also collected a bad race so it makes our day look better! The score is very tight so with two races tomorrow before the medal race, it is like we start all over again.”
New Zealand's Jo Aleh, sailing with her stand-in crew of Bianca Barbarich-Barber, won the first race but followed the trend with a high point second race. They are in second, only two points from the Israelis, while Japan's Ai Kondo and Wakako Tabata lost the lead after scoring their worse results so far. But with only five points from first, anything remains possible.
RS:X sailor Marina Alabau is enjoying the conditions in Palma, with another good racing day. The Andalucian is conserving her lead six points ahead of France's Charline Picon. They share today's victories, while in third Alessandra Sensini has been replaced on the podium by team mate Laura Linares.
With Paul Goodison (GBR) collecting top points with an OCS, Australian Tom Slingsby has reclaimed the lead in the Lasers. Slingsby has sailed to top 6 results and is going into tomorrow's final races with a good advantage. Nick Thompson remains in third, only one point adrift of Goodison and five from Slingsby. The best results (2-1) in the Gold fleet today were posted by New Zealand's Sam Meech propelling him up from 10th to 4th.
In the Laser Radial, the USA's Paige Railey has lost the lead to Belgium's Evi van Acker. Railey won the first race but has to carry the 28 points collected in the second race dropping her to third overall, five points from the new leader. Czech Republic's Veronika Fenclova is now second.
Olympic Star Gold medallists Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson have increasing their lead to 10 points today after winning the second of today's three race (the organisers attempting to catch up on the schedule). New faces are rising to the top in the form of the USA's Andrew Campbell/Ian Coleman now up to second and Italians Diego Negri and Enrico Voltolini who are third.
“There was very little wind out there today, it was pretty hard going," confessed Percy. "We didn’t feel we got it right today, but somehow we seemed to still have a good day. The breaks didn’t really go our way out on the course, but we fought back really hard and so are pretty pleased to have extended our lead.”
The top three remain the same in the 2.4m. Thierry Schmitter (NED) and Heiko Kroger (GER) shared today's best results with a first and a second to increase the gap over Britain's Megan Pascoe.
The Women’s Match Racing meanwhile is now down to the top eight teams. The morning saw the completion of the Repechage Group to see who would advance to the Quarter-Finals with the Gold Group. Anne-Claire Le Berre (FRA) and Stephanie Hazard (NZL) were 1-2 in ths group, both with scores of four wins and one loss.
Anna Tunnicliffe continued her unbeaten streak through the Gold Round Robin and won the Gold Group to earn the chance to sail against the second place team for the Repechage (Hazard) in the Quarter-Finals. The other pairings for the Quarter-Finals are Claire Leroy (FRA) vs. Anne-Claire Le Berre (FRA), Silja Lehtinen (FIN) vs. Silke Halbrock (GER), and Lucy Macgregor (GBR) vs. Sally Barkow (USA). The first team in each pair to score 3 points will advance to the Semi-Finals.
After two flights of the Quarter-Finals, Tunnicliffe leads Hazard 2-0; Le Berre and Leroy are tied 1-1; Lehtinen leads Hahlbrock 2-0; and Macgregor and Barkow are tied 1-1.
Tomorrow will see the completion of the Quarter-Finals and the Semi-Finals in the Women Match racing and the final races for the other classes. In the fleet racing it will be the last chance to get into the top ten for Saturday's medal races.
Robert Deaves' Finn Focus:
Experience won over youth today on the fourth day of the Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofia in Palma, as regatta leader Ben Ainslie (GBR) stamped his authority over the fleet with two more race wins on a day when very few could find any consistency and many of the front runners picked up what turned out to be their discards. Giles Scott (GBR) remains in second and despite a shocker in race seven Thomas Le Breton (FRA) hangs onto third.
The day opened with a blue, clear sky, and bright sunshine over the glassy water, with not a breath of wind all morning. A soft sea breeze gradually moved in but the wind rarely exceeded 8 knots and sometimes a lot less. The fleet was split into gold and silver divisions today which meant that the competition at the top got even harder, with all the top sailors now in one fleet.
By the time of the start of race seven, the wind was about 4-7 knots from the south-east with several large shifts coming through to separate the fleet. This is most markedly seen in the results from the gold fleet which are all over the place. The favoured side kept shifting from one upwind to the next, so much so that the first gold fleet race was abandoned after a major shift came through.
Once it was finally restarted, Ben Ainslie (GBR) won race seven from Caleb Paine (USA) – the top junior at last year's Finn Gold Cup – and Giles Scott (GBR), and then went on to record his fifth win of the series in race eight, crossing ahead of Giorgio Poggi (ITA) and Rafal Szukiel (POL).
This meant Ainslie has extended his lead over Scott to nine points, and with Scott a further 15 points ahead of third placed Le Breton, the British pair are pulling away from the fleet. Dan Slater (NZL) drops to fourth after 5, 12 while Zach Railey (USA) hangs onto fifth with a 25 (later a DSQ), 9. Meanwhile current world champion Ed Wright (GBR) posted a fourth place – after a DNC for a second yellow flag penalty in race seven – to move up to sixth overall, and within striking distance of the medals for the first time this week.
There were, in fact, a lot of high scores for the top 20 boats – 9 out of the top 20 picked up their discard so far, many with results in the 20s and 30s.
Starting after the gold fleet, the silver fleet also got two light wind races in. Tauras Rymonis (LTU) won race seven from Johal Nachhatar (IND) and Andre Budzien (GER) after the first boat across the line Christoph Froh (GER) scored OCS. Race eight for the silver fleet was won by Florian Raudaschl (AUT) from Alejandro Aranzueque (ESP) and Felix Denikaev (RUS). This leaves Raudaschl with a seven point lead over Julian Massler (GER) and Thomas Vika (CZE) going into Friday's final races.
With just 20 points separating seventh to 17th, there is still all to play for on the final day for the gold and silver fleets on Friday, before the medal race for the top 10 on Saturday.
More pics from Nico Martinez/www.nicomartinez.com
And from Jesus Renedo/www.sailingstock.com