About turn for Day 3 at Skandia Sail for Gold, as the weather starts to put more pressure on the fleet
For some, day three was day two with visibility, for others Wednesday’s racing marked a change of gear.
For the Lasers, Stars and Finns, whose courses are seven miles away from the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy and the furthest of the Sail for Gold Fleet, being able to see the windward mark was a big improvement on the previous day. The driving rain and low cloud had reduced visibility to a quarter of a mile at times. Today the visibility was far better and the breeze was also up a few notches to the mid teens with a big sea state to match.
The conditions certainly seemed to suit Giles Scott in the Finn, as he nailed another first and a second in today’s races. With five races now under his belt he can discard his 21st from the opening day to take the lead overall, 8 points ahead of second placed Ben Ainslie.
In the Star class, Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson took a second and a first to slip into the lead, five points ahead of Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada by the end of the day.
In the Laser class Tom Burton (AUS) is continuing to stamp his authority on the class posting a first and a ninth, (which he is currently discarding), to lead overall by 8 points ahead of Philipp Buhl (GER). Britain’s Paul Goodison got back into his stride today scoring two seconds which hauled him up the fleet into sixth overall.
Meanwhile in the Laser Radial class Lijia Xu continues to post impressive results and now leads the field at the end of day three, 11 points ahead of Marit Bouwmeester.
Among those who faced a change of scenery, the windsurfers swapped their venue with the 49ers and were sailing in Weymouth Bay rather than the harbour. In a breeze that regularly hit the high teens and early twenties, the boards demonstrated just how much space they can use up in the course of a 30 minute race. Despite having 100hp outboard on our radio RIB, the sea state at the downwind end of the course meant that there was little chance of us keeping pace with the boards who were careering and leaping around like Spaniel puppies on the loose.
In the men’s fleet Julian Bontemps continues to lead the field with Nick Dempsey in second overall, while in the women’s class it is Zofia Klepacka who refuses to finish anywhere worse than second in any of her races. Marina Alabau is her closest opponent in second overall but even she trails by 19 points.
Having swapped their race course with the boards the 49er fleet had a blistering day, scorching around the harbour in relative flat water and 14-18 knot breezes, perfect for close racing, which is frequently what the two fleets (blue and yellow delivered). By the end of the day it was Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen who lead the class.
In the 470 class Camille Lecointre and Mathilde Geron have taken the overall lead from Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark who struggled with a pair of results in the teens to drop from pole to third overall.
Meanwhile in the mens’ 470, it is the Kiwis Paul Snow-Hansen and Jason Saunders who lead the field with class favourites Matthew Belcehr and Malcolm Page taking second. This class in particular looks like it could prove interesting once the fleets are seeded tomorrow when the top pair will go head to head for the first time this week. The racing will also provide an opportunity for the British pair Patience and Bithell to work on their current third placing overall.
In the Paralympic classes there are again familiar names at the head of the fleets with Thierry Schmitter continuing to dominate in the 2.4mR ahead of second placed Helena Lucas. The British trio Robertson/Stodel/Thomas have leapt to the head of the overall results after their difficult start to the week, albeit with a narrow two point lead. And in Skud 18 the British lead once again with Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell winning every race bar one, (in which they were third), since the beginning of the week.
Tomorrow, Thursday, sees the first round of seeded races in fleets that are big enough to have been split up until now. That in itself would normally be sufficient food for thought as competitors prepare to square up to those that have performed similarly well in another fleet. But there is another issue on the minds of all here in Weymouth, the weather.
Thursday looks to be very punchy indeed with a forecast of 20-28 knots in the morning and building after midday. On Friday the picture looks even more severe with 30-40 knots. If this happens it’s fairly clear that racing is unlikely to take place, but for tomorrow, the conditions are right up against the stops for most of the classes and could provide some of the most dramatic racing we have seen so far.
The next two days could be tricky for all and provide plenty of food for thought for the big event in August.