This was with the exception of the 2.4mR where Bjornar Erikstad from Norway maintained his lead, his experience from three past Paralympic Games shining through. Britain's Megan Pascoe, early leader this week was close behind finishing second overall to pick up the first British medal of this regatta and her second World Cup podium finish of the season, following her gold in Miami.
After her disappointment at missing out on selection for her home Paralympic Games last year, Pascoe admitted she’s had a pleasing start to this new cycle, and towards realising her 2016 ambitions in Rio.
“Being the start of the road to Rio, and with UK Sport and the National Lottery officially launching the 2016 campaign this week it’s quite nice to be on the podium!” she said of her silver medal feat this week in Palma. “2012 was quite hard for me, but 2013 has started with a bang!”
Going into today's final race, Pascoe went on the attack at the start in a bid to overturn Erikstad’s lead, but had to settle for the second step of the podium, ending up five points behind the Norwegian. “It didn’t quite pan out,” she said. “But it’s always worth trying these things, and trying them when I already had the silver in the bag [so nothing to lose] is always nice.”
Australian 470 duo of London 2012 gold medallist Mat Belcher and Will Ryan are lining up to win Trofeo Princesa Sofia Mapfre. After the last two days of finals racing, they are the only team remaining on '0' points. In the five races held in this part of the regatta they have scored four bullets and discard a 5th.
"Today was another good day’s racing for Will and I,” said Belcher. “The conditions were quite light, ranging between six and 12 knots so it provided another good opportunity to test our speed and racing abilities in these conditions.
“We’ve had a great week of sailing, so hopefully tomorrow we can finish it off, but the main thing is our performance and development as a team,” he said. “We’ve discovered many things during this event that will help us as we move forward. To head into the medal race having won seven of 11 races, we’re very happy with that.”
The immaculate Aussies hold a 17 point lead over the Greek team of Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis who have moved up to second overall, overtaking Britain's Olympic silver medal winning duo of Luke Patience and Joe Glanfield.
Sadly Britain's Sophie Weguelin and Eilidh Mcintyre, who have been leading the 470 Women's class from the outset, have been overhauled by Brazilians Fernanda Oliveira and Ana Barbachan, now two points ahead of the Brits, who in turn have an 11 point cushion over the third placed Austrians Lara Vadlau and Jolanta Ogar.
Team GBR women are having more success in the Laser Radial, where Ali Young is back in the driving seat, discarding a 9th, to overtake Dane Sarah Gunni, who is discarding an 18th from today's racing and is now 4 points behind Young with Belarus' Tatiana Drozdovskaya a further 10 points adrift in third place.
“The different format has kept it close right until the end,” Young commented. “It was a tough day out there for everyone today. I was pleased to be making good gains downwind, which bodes well for tomorrow. I am looking forward these two medal races.”
Fellow British Radial sailor Chloe Martin has also made the cut for the 10-boat medal races, winning the last race of the final series elevating her into eighth place going into the final day.
Equall consistent this week has been RS:X sailor and Beijing bronze medallist Bryony Shaw. She posted a 0-3-3 and holds a three point lead over German Moana Delle in second and powerful Spaniard Blanca Manchon, a further two points back.
Having had a medal-winning start to the year at the RS:X World Championships in Brazil last month, where she won her first piece of Worlds silverware, Shaw is keen to keep the momentum going and close out another podium finish in tomorrow. “It’s great to be here and racing in the yellow jersey and keep that momentum going. “We’re planning to do a lot of races this year and it’s trying to keep that winning spirit going, and hopefully I’ll finish here on top and it’ll be job done!” she said.
Australian domination is continuing in the Laser men's class where World #1 Tom Burton, now holds 15 points with Brazil's Bruno Fontes up to second some way back on 31. Fontes has overhauled the other strong Antipodeans Andy Maloney and Sam Meech, who are tied on 35 points.
Burton was 22nd in race one, which was discarded, before bouncing back well to finish second in race two and put himself in pole position ahead of the two medal races. “It was a good result for me today,” he said. “We waited for the breeze to settle ahead of race one and it was a bit tricky to decide which side would pay. I got caught down at the pin end going to the left when a big wind shift came but managed to get back to 22nd, the only saving grace was that all the other front runners were out there with me.
“In race two I got a decent start at the right end and was third at the top mark,” he said. “I managed to work through to take second which allowed me to drop the 22nd and carry a fifth from yesterday, making it a good day. I’m pretty happy with my overall sailing this week and it’s given me a little buffer heading into tomorrow, although we know that with two medal races anything can happen."
Sadly early leader, German Philip Buhl, has bombed finishing 30th in today's first race, which he is having to count after he was OCS in the second. This has caused him to plummet to 11th which of course means that he won't now be competing in tomorrow's medal races. Britain's Nick Thompson has also missed out on the medal races, however Alex Mills Barton is through after he won today's final race.
In the 49er Germans Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel have sailed a blistering finals series and have extend their lead. After a string of bullets they are discarding an OCS and are counting a 5th from the final race. “We won the first race but collected an OCS in the second. We are working well together and we have good speed. So that's make things easier,” they said.
They are 14 points ahead of second placed Brits David Evans and Edward Powys with London 2012 bronze medallist, Dane Allan Norregaard and Alders Thomsen holding third.
Interestingly just a few nations are dominating the 49er with both Britain's Stevie Morrison/Ben Rhodes and Dylan Fletcher/Alain Sign also through to tomorrow's medal races, while there are two more Danish teams and two Spanish teams.
In the 49erFX Danes Ida Marie Baad Nielsen and Marie Thusgaard Olsen didn't manage to repeat their string of bullet but still hold first palce ahead of New Zealand's Alex Maloney and Molly Meech, now just eight points behind. Britain's Charlotte Dobson and Sophie Ainsworth hold fifth place while Penny Clark and Nicola Groves have also squeaked into the medal races in 10th place.
Dutch and French sailors continue to dominate the Nacra 17. The Netherlands' Mandy Mulder and Thijs Visser are currently ahead of France's Moana Vaireaux and Manon Audinet, now up to second ahead of teammate Billy Besson and Marie Riou.
In fourth, Renee Groeneveld explained her day, “It was a good day, we had one bad start and finished 18th in that race, but the rest was good, in the third race we sailed better again and finished second. Everything is still possible in this fleet and we certainly aim for a medal tomorrow. The starts in the Nacra 17 are quite tricky and new for us. You really have to get it right.”
Lucy Macgregor-Tom Phipps and Pippa Wilson-John Gimson made medal race day at their first attempt holding seventh and ninth respectively.
The Finn has become a two horse race between Britain's Giles Scott and potent Dutchman Pieter-Jan Postma who now hold an 18 points lead over French London 2012 bronze medallist Jonathan Lobert.
“Today I sailed very well in difficult conditions. I am very happy,” said Postma. “And that result of today has much influence on how we go in to the Medal Race tomorrow. I'm in a good position. My biggest competitor tomorrow is Giles Scott.”
Brazil's Ricardo Santos has positioned himself nicely behind Spain's Ivan Pastor in the Men’s RS:X after he won two race today. French veteran Julien Bontemps has nestled in nicely behind the top two while newbie Dutch sailboarder Kiran Badloe, 18, holds fourth overall at his first Trofeo Sofia Mapfre.
“Last year I did a few seniors events, but this is the first year that I joined the big boys," said Badloe. "They are all super nice and it is good fun,” said Badloe. “My performance is improving. I made some mistakes but also did some things right. My strong point is strong winds. I have good speed. I must take advantage of that. Since December I have been training 11 days here and taking 10 days’ rest. We know the place very well. My objective is to compete in the Olympics, but first tomorrow my first Medal Race. It is going to be very exciting and I also look very much forward to it.”
Once again a new race format is being trialled in Palma and tomorrow will see two medal races being held for each class, both as usual double point scoring and non-discardable, the exception being the 49er and 49erFX, where the top eight will race four medal races, which will be all single point scorers and will be non-discardable. So as a result there will be 40 points at stake.
'Theatre style sailing' is a new concept developed by the 49ers last year. Class Manager, Ben Remocker explains the concept: “The 49er Class is testing theatre style racing through the 2013 race year in order to see if it aligns with our goal of producing a worthy champion while entertaining sailing fans. We are having four Medal Races because they are short races and we want it to be a physical test. Eight boats, because that is a good number to be able to tell the story of the race.”
Races will be shortened across all the classes with the Laser, Radial, Men’s and Women’s 470 and Finns lasting around 15 minutes while the Nacra 17 and Men’s and Women’s RS:X will sail for 10 and the 49er and 49erFX approximately eight minutes.
Bryony Shaw gave her take on the new scoring system: “Everyone’s got their opinions on the format. I think throwing everything at the last day is a bit much. People want to build up their points and have that respect for the result at the end of the day, and having such a weighting on the final day is just a bit a lottery when I don’t think the athletes really want that.”
Medal racing at the Princess Sofia Trophy will get underway at 1045 (local time) on Saturday.
Robert Deaves' Finn Focus:
Giles Scott (GBR) and Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) take an 18 point lead into Saturday’s medal races at the Trofeo S.A.R. Princesa Sofía MAPFRE in Palma de Mallorca. Jonathan Lobert (FRA) has moved back into third overall, but begins with a much tighter points gap on the chasing boats that the two leaders.
On the second day of finals racing, the fleet enjoyed moderate conditions from 8 to 12 knots with some nice waves to surf downwind. Postma picked up a 3, 1, 2 to close the gap on Scott, who placed 1, 2, 8. Lobert's finishes of 7, 10, 4 were just enough to put him back in a podium position as many sailors had a tough day with inconsistent results.
Scott described the racing, “There was a big righty in the first race that PJ made the most of to have the race pretty much wrapped up by the windward mark. In the second it was a bit more of an even race track with the guys in the middle leading.”
In the silver fleet Milosz Wojewski (POL) won four out of the six races to end up on just 2 points. James Hadden (GBR) and Viktor Filippov (RUS) won the other two to end up second and fourthm while a consistent display from Anrei Ianitski (RUS) left him in third.
It was a great day on the water Postma, “Today I sailed very well in difficult conditions. And that result of today has much influence on how we go in to the Medal Race tomorrow. I'm in a good position. There are 40 points to win tomorrow. That is going to be terribly exciting.”
Class newcomers Josh Junior and Andrew Murdoch (NZL) are sixth and seventh in their first international Finn regatta, while ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami winner Caleb Paine (USA) just missed out on the Medal stage in 11th position.
Murdoch said, “I have been in the class for just over 2 months and this is my first international event. I'm really enjoying the change to the Finn class and look forward to racing the rest of this season. There are so many new things to learn, it's not just the techniques but also the technology in the rigs.”
On his performance so far, “I had no idea how I was going to go prior to the event. It's a great start to my Olympic campaign and I'm really happy with how it's going. I know I have a lot to learn and the fleet will no doubt continue to improve over the next couple of years as well.
Like most sailors he is not convinced the trial scoring format being used this year is the best solution. “It's certainly a change from what we are used to, the importance of the races really steps up as the event progresses. I can see us having issues if the weather plays havoc with the race schedule. We have been fortunate to have very reliable weather at this event so it hasn't caused any issues there.”
Scott has much stronger views. “I think it's no good at all. It brings in a level of randomness and also penalises those who sail consistently, whilst at the same time giving those who have made mistakes almost as good a chance of winning the regatta. In my mind the format is completely flaweded because it hurts those that sail better.”
“I also believe the two medal races to be a bad idea especially with the points being so tight by the end of the regatta with only six races being scored. Most importantly I think that with the Olympics going to a light and potentially shifty venue it's more import that ever to have the fairest scoring system that rewards the consistently good performers.”
The Finns will sail two double scoring medal races on Saturday with a potential 40 points up for grabs. This basically means any of the sailors could potentially win the regatta with only 40 points separating the top ten boats. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.