British 49er sailors back on top with two days remaining at the Princess Sofia Trophy in Palma 5/4/07

Glamour sailing conditions at the Princess Sofia Trophy on Wednesday (4 April) caused further changes at the top of the Olympic classes leaderboards, with British boats currently occupying five medal positions heading into the last two days of racing in Palma Bay.

European Champions Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes have resumed the top spot in the tightly contested 49er class, while birthday boy Paul Campbell James, 24 today, and crew Mark Asquith also broke into the top three with the help of a first place finish from their third and final race of the day.

Rhodes who posted a 6,19,2 with Morrison today explained: “It’s funny – we’re in the lead, but it hasn’t felt like we’ve really sailed that well yet. There have been some races where we’ve given a few places away for annoying reasons, so I do think we’ve got more in the tank!”

For Campbell James and Asquith, the Princess Sofia Trophy is an opportunity to fine tune certain aspects of their sailing ahead of the ISAF World Championships in Cascais – although Asquith admits that their elevation to the podium positions has its advantages.

“This regatta has all the top guys here who are going to be competing at the Worlds and it’s great that we’re mixing it with them,” Asquith explained. “We still feel that we’ve got plenty more to give, and I think that others in the fleet are really starting to open their eyes to us.”

The race for qualification to the single British slot in any of the Olympic classes will be tough, but especially so in the 49er class where Skandia Team GBR can boast three boats within the top 11 in the world, including World Champions Chris Draper and Simon Hiscocks and European Champions Morrison and Rhodes.

Chris Draper and Simon Hiscocks are in currently in ninth in the 49er standings, having picked up a five point penalty for forgetting to sign back in following racing on Tuesday.

Elsewhere, British fortunes switched around in the Yngling class, with Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson breaking into the top three, with 5,2,3 to show from the day’s three races. The trio admit that it’s not been the easiest of conditions for them so far, but put their progress so far throughout the regatta down to the strength of their teamwork.

“It’s been pretty difficult conditions for the past few days, but we’ve tried to be strong and sail to our principles,” said Wilson. “But there’s a lot of racing still to go, so we’ve just got to get our heads down.”

A tough day for Shirley Robertson with 28,21 from the first two races saw her and teammates Annie Lush and Lucy Macgregor drop down to eighth place from second overnight – although they did manage to post a first in the third race of the day in spite of a hole in their boat after being rammed by a German crew, who’d lost control after getting their spinnaker sheet caught around their rudder.

The Yngling development squad team of Victoria Rawlinson, Emma Rawlinson and Sue Monson can also boast of two fourths from their three races, which has put them into 13th place and within reach of the medal positions.

Windsurfer Nick Dempsey remains in the chase in the men’s RS:X class – he’s currently in third place, while Paul Goodison has also improved his lot in the Laser fleet, moving up into the bronze medal position with the help of a first from his final race of the day. Fellow Laser sailor Nick Thompson is currently in fifth.

Leigh McMillan and Will Howden put the drama of Tuesday behind them to post a 13,3 and move back up into fifth place in the Tornado European Championships. The duo were involved in a late night protest on Tuesday after Howden was struck during racing by the boat belonging to Spanish sailors Fernando Echavarri and Anton Paz, resulting in ligament damage to Howden’s left foot and forcing them to retire from racing. The Spanish crew was subsequently disqualified after protest, and the Skandia Team GBR pair were given redress and average points for that race which has helped put them back on track.

Luke Patience and Chris Grube remain the top British crew in the 470 men’s fleet, with the development squad sailors currently in fifth place, just seven points off the podium positions and nine points from the top spot, while European Champion Ed Wright has today broken into the top ten in the Finn class.

Charlotte Dobson remains top Brit in the Laser Radial class in ninth place, while Bryony Shaw is 12th in the women’s RS:X windsurfing event.

Racing at the Princess Sofia Trophy runs through until Friday 6 April.