Ben Ainslie now leads the Finn Gold Cup by 18 points

The only race sailed in the Finn Gold Cup in Rio de Janeiro yesterday saw another downwind comeback for Ben Ainslie (GBR), giving him a third place and moving him 18 points clear at the top of the results, ahead of Mateusz Kusznierewicz (POL). However, the day belonged to Brazil, with Bruno Prada winning the race ahead of veteran Finn sailor Jorge Zarif.

Not only were the sailors tired after the previous day’s fresh winds, but the wind must also have been tired. As a result, the Finn fleet spent more time being towed around than actually racing. The fleet headed out to Guanabara Bay for the scheduled 1300 start. After a postponement and a wait the fleet was towed back into the harbour where a pleasant 7-8 knot breeze was waiting. The press had also arrived with their cameras and helicopters, so there was quite a commotion within the harbour.

At the start most of the favourites favoured the pin end, but Dean Barker (NZL) and Marin Misura (CRO) led half of the fleet out of the committee boat end towards the favoured right-hand side. However, most of the favourites including the top three overnight went to the left of the course before digging back in. But it was too late by then as even the slowest of the boats heading right crossed nearly all those who had gone left, leaving several high ranking boats with too much to do to get back in the chocolates.

Soren Holm (DEN) rounded the top mark in the lead followed by Nenad Viali (CRO), Misura, Chris Cook (CAN), Barker and Rafael Trujillo Villar (ESP). Ainslie rounded about 14th and headed to the right on the run, where there looked to be more pressure. It worked a treat as Ainslie rounded the downwind gate in second place just behind Joao Signorini (BRA) and just ahead of Jorge Zarif (BRA), Barker, Cook and Bruno Prada (BRA).

Ben takes up the story: “I had a good start and went left a bit then back to the right. I was trying to stay with Mateusz and David and they were behind me so that was OK. I rounded the top mark about 14th and then went right on the run and gained a lot to round the gate in second. I actually got into the lead on the second beat, but didn’t quite go far enough right, so lost out a bit.” Ainslie rounded the top mark in second place just behind Prada and just ahead of Holm and Misura. He continued: “It was really close at the finish, so I wasn’t sure if I was 2nd or 3rd.” In fact, Prada maintained his lead on the final downwind leg to the finish, with Zarif moving up to second to make it a Brazilian 1, 2.

Meanwhile Mateusz was having his own problems. He commented: “After rounding the first mark behind Ben I knew I had to attack on the next beat. I’m not here to come second or third (even though I might do that now!), so I went to the right, probably too far, and ran out of wind. It was very bad for me. I lost a lot of places, but luckily managed to catch up some on the final downwind.” Kusznierewicz finished 14th to give Ainslie an 18-point cushion going into the final day tomorrow.

Just as the race committee tried to start a second race, the wind died and it was postponed until today. The fleet then dropped their sails and started the tow back to the club – five minutes later a stiff wind filled in from the opposite direction. The wind has been fickle and changeable all week, and with a change in the weather overnight, the final day is unlikely to be any less challenging for the 54 competitors.

Ainslie commented on his plans for the final day: “It will be just be a matter of keeping an eye on Mateusz and David, and trying to stay ahead of them.” The Pole also reflected on the final day: “Obviously I will still try and win but it’s not going to be easy.”

The battle to be the best home country sailor also heated up today. Bruno Prada and Joao Signorini will soon be battling it out for selection for Brazilian berth in Athens. Here in Rio, they are neck and neck going into the final day. A win for Prada and a 5th place for Signorini sees them tied on 79 points each.

Two races are scheduled for today and the racing has been moved forward one hour to 1200 in the hope that the wind will remember to get up one hour earlier. The opening stages of the Rio Carnival also starts today.

1st GBR 3, GBR, Ben Ainslie 30.0pts

2nd POL 17, POL, Mateuzs Kuzsneirewicz 48.0pts

3rd IRL 8, IRL, David Burrows 49.0pts

4th CAN 303, CAN, Richard Clarke 58.0pts

5th ESP 100, ESP, Rafael Trujillo Uillar 62.0pts

6th CRO 25, CRO, Marin Misura 64.0pts