Stefan Boehm came to Barbados as someone who had never won a national sailing championship in his native Germany and certainly had never won a world title. On that basis, no one picked him to be where he is now, leading the SAP 5O5 World Championship with one race remaining.
The final race will be critical, with three German teams each having a chance to win. Second in the standings is five-time world champion Wolfgang Hunger, with Claas Lehmann close, but it's Boehm's regatta to lose.
When Boehm and his crewman Gerald Roos won the first two races of the nine-race series, there were people who predicted that they wouldn't be able to make that stick over the course of the week. There is no such talk now. In the first race Thursday, race seven of the series, five time world champion Wolfgang Hunger made a strong bid to convince Boehm - Hunger is an MD from Kiel, Boehm an attorney from Cologne - that Boehm is not yet ready to win a 5O5 Worlds. Hunger ran away with that race and led by more than 200 meters at the finish, with Lehmann second and Boehm fourth. The leaderboard tightened. In sports, that's how you break an opponent, but Boehm didn't break.
Hunger led Boehm again through the first five legs of race eight. Australians Sandy Higgins and Paul Marsh jumped out to a big lead, but, with three finishes in the teens, the Aussies were out of the hunt for the world title. The three Germans who are very much in the hunt just let them go.
On the sixth leg, sailed upwind, Hunger made the tactical move that has paid off most often in the racing here, favoring the left-hand side of the course along with Lehmann and Hunger. Boehm went his own way and risked a big loss that instead turned into a big win. Not as in winning the race - Higgins was long gone - but as in passing five boats on the courage of his convictions and taking third ahead of Lehmann, sixth, and Hunger, eighth.
In Boris Herrmann's post-race debrief, Herrmann demonstrated through SAP Analytics that Boehm had been a fraction of a knot slower than his opponents, on average, on the downwind legs, with Hunger making the fewest maneuvers of the top three. He also noted that it sometimes pays to boldly go where nobody else is going.
Also on Thursday, Herrmann spoke with 38 high school students from local schools in and around Bridgetown, all of them taking Information Technology courses, on a field trip to see technology and techies in action. The students toured the SAP Sailors' Lounge, where sailors and their families relax, watch the races on screen, or study the data generated through SAP Analytics. They also were treated to a brief tour of SAP Analytics headquarters inside the Barbados Yacht Club, where a full team of technicians, interpreters and presenters was at work to bring the racing to the lounge and to millions of Internet viewers around the world.
Those same technicians, interpreters and presenters will be back on Friday, hanging on the outcome because, at this point, it's personal - personal following the fortunes of our three German contenders and all 69 boats on the racecourse, and personal about getting this race out to the world.
Full results here