Lawrie Smith reclaims the lead
There were more shocks and upsets on the penultimate day of the Dragon Gold Cup off Kinsale as several of the top boats posted poor results and the leaderboard was shuffled once again. It was another strong wind day and with the sun frequently breaking through the scudding clouds and plenty of spray flying it was a spectacular day in every way keeping the spectators enthralled from start to finish.The race got underway cleanly at the first attempt and the boats set off up the beat in around 16-18 knots from the WSW punching a building sea. The fleet spread out right across the course and at the first mark those who had come up the centre right had a slight advantage. First to round was Ireland's Claire Hogan followed by Remy Arnaud of France, Brit Mark Dicker, Australia's Richard Lynn, Andrew Craig from Dublin, Lawrie Smith, Jose Matoso of Portugal, Gavia Wilkinson-Cox and London based Klaus Diederichs. For the spectators looking out for the rest of the overall regatta leaders it was a long wait as Hungary's Ferenc Kis-Szölgyémi, Germany's Tommy Mueller, Denmark's Joergen Schoenherr and overnight leader Dmitry Samokhin were all badly buried well down the fleet.
By the first gate Arnaud had moved up into first ahead of Matoso, Craig was third, Hogan fourth and Smith fifth. Denmark's Lars Hendriksen, sailing for the Ukraine, had moved up to sixth from eleventh. Back in the pack Kis-Szölgyémi and Mueller continued to struggle although Schoenherr and Samokhin had both begun to claw their way back up the fleet.
As the boats headed off up the second beat the breeze started to build to 20 knots and the sea increased with it. A couple of shifts helped to shake things up again and at the second weather mark Craig led from Germany's Philip Dohse with Arnaud third, Matoso fourth, Hogan fifth, Smith sixth and Hendriksen seventh.
On the second run the leading four held their positions as Hendriksen put on an impressive show of downwind speed to get past Hogan. Germany's Reemt Reemtsma moved into seventh with Smith eighth. Further down the pack Schoenherr was up to fifteenth and Mueller and Samokhin were making gains.
As they started up the final beat the wind began to gust up into the mid-20s and once again the left side of the course was much rougher. With the wind and tide more favourable on the right the majority of the fleet headed out from the mark on port tack. With only one way to go up the beat Craig was able to confidently cover the fleet and he cruised home to victory. Smith and Diederichs both put in hugely impressive beats and sailed themselves up into second and third place respectively with Diederichs just beating Matoso into fourth on the line by a nose. Arnaud crossed fifth followed closely by Hendriksen and Hogan. Looking back down the fleet for the regatta leaders the first to appear was Schoenherr who crossed ninth, Mueller made huge ground on the final beat to finish 16th, Samokhin 20th and Kis-Szölgyémi 24th.
In the overall standings Lawrie Smith now leads the regatta with 31 points, giving him a 12 point margin over second placed Dmitry Samokhin. Tommy Mueller moves into third on 51 points, three ahead of Joergen Schoenherr. Ferenc Kis-Szölgyémi and Jose Matoso both count 56 points with Matoso claiming fifth on count back. Three further points adrift in seventh is Klaus Diederichs on 59 points. The top ten is rounded out by Anatoly Loginov on 65, Lars Hendriksen on 67 and Poul-Richard Hoj-Jensen on 71 points.
In the Corinthian Division for all amateur crews Cameron Good of Kinsale continues to lead the regatta. Overnight second placed Graham Bailey, the reigning Corinthian Gold Cup Champion and winner of races three and four, had a shocker of a day rounding the first mark at the back of the fleet and only recovering to 18th (47th overall) which drops him down the Corinthian ranking to sixth overall. Remy Arnaud was today's Corinthian race winner and as a result he now sits in second overall, three points behind Good. A single point further back is Denmark's Frank Berg with Reemt Reemtsma fourth.
In the Nations Cup competition the British Team of Lawrie Smith, Poul Richard Hoj-Jensen and Chris Hunt now lead with 192 points, Russia, represented by Dmitry Samokhin, Anatoly Loginov and Alexander Exhkov, is second on 202 and Germany, represented by Tommy Mueller, Philip Dohse and Stephan Link, is third on 248.
Tomorrow's final race showdown will be an edge of the seat affair as the sixty-strong fleet makes a last bid for gains. With no discard every point counts and both Smith and Good's leads are by no means unassailable so we can expect and edge of the seat finish to what has already been a truly spectacular regatta.
This evening the crews will enjoy the Brewin Dolphin Dragon Gold Cup Championship Dinner at Kinsale Yacht Club, preceded by an exhibition of black and white Dragon photography taken earlier in the week by renowned local photographer Giles Norman. Brewin Dolphin Executive Chairman Jamie Mattheson and his wife Angela, themselves successful racing sailors, will be joining the competitors for what promises to be a fantastic evening of fun and celebration. Also joining the party will be Olympic Bronze Medallist Ossie Stewart, who normally sails as Lawrie Smith's tactician. Ossie suffered a minor stroke just 10 days ago and so wasn't able to compete this week, but he arrived in Kinsale today and kept an eye on Lawrie's progress from the RIB. The entire fleet is delighted to see Ossie back on his feet and looks forward to racing against him again very soon.