Giles Scott (GBR) has moved into a 20 point lead at the 2014 ISAF Sailing World Championships in Santander after two more challenging races. Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) moves up to second with Jonathan Lobert (FRA) dropping one to third. The gold fleet race wins went to Ed Wright (GBR) and Alex Muscat (ESP).
The day began windy again but soon moderated once racing was started to 15-18 knots. However with the course set close to the land, it produced some very tricky and shifty conditions with large pressure changes and wind bands funnelling down the course causing more than a few upsets. There were a lot of high scores throughout the fleet and patience was a much needed quality as sailors rose and fell through the fleet.
Jonas Høgh-Christensen (DEN) owned the pin end of the start line in race 7 and immediately tacked to cross the entire fleet. He only trailed Ed Wright (GBR) and Oliver Tweddell (AUS) around the top mark and moved up to second on the run. Wright extended down the run to hold the lead at the gate, but the Dane was never far behind and pushed all the way. Wright managed to hold on for his third race win, with Giles Scott (GBR) recovering from around tenth at the first mark to cross in third.
In race 8 Alex Muscat (ESP) held a narrow lead at the top mark from Andrew Murdoch (NZL) and Tapio Nirkko (FIN). To the delight of the locals he managed to lead the fleet across the finish line after a very tricky race with some big pressure changes across the course. Murdoch crossed second with Nirkko third.
Giorgio Poggi (ITA) now leads the silver fleet after trading first and second places with Martin Robitaille (CAN), who is now just one point behind.
Høgh-Christensen described to start of race 7. "I thought I saw a massive pressure line coming down the left side and I just went for it. It was very hard because you had to look up the race course and prepare for the first shift after the start."
"Things went really well in the first race and I got a second. Then I was almost last in the second. I was leading half way up the first beat on the right side. It normally paid to take the big shifts right and stay to the right of the group if you could. And then the wind changed 35 degrees to the left with pressure and we had none. I just sat there watching the other side of the course fully hiked. Then I took a wrong decision on the downwind and another wrong decision on the second beat and then took a chance on the last run as I had nothing to lose by then. It went sour quite quick, but that's racing."
One of the pre-event favourites who just hasn't found his form so far is Pieter-Jan Postma (NED). He is languishing in 26th place, a long way from the Olympic place selection zone. He said, "Yes, PJ is struggling. Mainly with strategy and decision making. You have to have a lot of patience on the course and it's so hard to pick the right shifts. But my speed is ok, and my starts are all good."
"I think my preparation was good. I trained really hard for this and the sailing was going really well. So I felt quite ready but the results so far are terrible. I don't think I will secure the Olympic place this week. I pushed hard again today but there was still no great racing yet from me."
Vasilij Zbogar (SLO), the 2013 European Champion, is in 12th place, and just four points outside the medal race, but within the Olympic place selection zone. He hasn't performed as well as expected, but explains why. "It's hard for me. I was sick before the worlds and had two months off. I lost a lot of training so I was not very well prepared for this event. I knew here would be extremely hard from the beginning and then the wind kicked it and it got harder, so I really struggled in these conditions. If you don't have really good boat speed it's hard to race against these guys. We have two races left. I am close to securing the spot in Rio, and it's going to be close tomorrow, so I hope for less wind. It might give me a little bit more of an edge."
Despite his worst scoring day so far, Scott still had the best day on the water with a third and a fourth. He said, "It was a hard day. Shifty and random. We were set right in the middle of the cliffs and it seemed to either go to the left or right side and the range was massive. Not sure if there was rhyme or reason to it."
"I got a third and a fourth which I am actually pretty happy with because that was really difficult sailing. There were big leftys and big rightys and they were long as well so you could easily get stuck on the wrong side. So I am pretty happy to come away unscathed. But Bambi was only a couple behind me in each race so it's not over. The fat lady is not singing yet."
His nearest rival now is Kljakovic Gaspic, who placed fifth and sixth, giving the Brit a crucial points cushion going into Saturday's two final gold fleet races. And with lighter winds forecast, it is a long way from being over.
Kljakovic Gaspic said, "It was a good day for me and a good week so far. I got a fifth and sixth today and it's important that many of my closest opponents made some mistakes in the second race, and they keep piling on the points, while I am just keeping my head calm without any bad results and I am now comfortably in second."
On his consistency, "I don't really know. I am just sailing simple and waiting for my chances and waiting for the right moment to cross the group. I guess I am not under any pressure so far as I don't have any major mistakes and this just keeps me relaxed. I don't think about the points, just about sailing good races and sailing relaxed. I am pretty happy how I performing so far."
"Giles is good. He is sailing good and I guess a couple of mistake I made he didn't make and he had a really good opening series. And I didn't have so good one. He is still ahead, but these are really small things and I am really happy I am racing this well."
Does he think Scott is catchable? "It's hard to say. He has really good results so far and he is consistent. I'll just do my best to sail as best as I can and as I have been doing this week. And I am not thinking about results and just about giving my best."
Lobert was one of those picking up a high score on the second race. "Today was a tricky day, quite windy and super shifty and I managed a sixth, which was pretty good, next to Bambi, so that was also good. Then in the second race I was just not in the right wind, I missed it on the first upwind and then on the second upwind I chose to stay on the left hand side but that was not a good choice and I finished 19th. There is now some points to Bambi, but I am still third, and very close to Ed. Tomorrow will be a tricky day again so maybe some big scores coming in, so it is not over yet."
The Finn fleet concludes its gold and silver fleet racing on Saturday with two more races scheduled before Sunday's medal race.
Results after 8 races
1 GBR 41 Giles Scott 10
2 CRO 524 Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic 30
3 FRA 112 Jonathan Lobert 43
4 GBR 11 Edward Wright 44
5 NZL 16 Andrew Murdoch 60
6 FRA 29 Thomas Le Breton 60
7 NOR 1 Anders Pedersen 61
8 NZL 24 Josh Junior 64
9 USA 6 Caleb Paine 65
10 SWE 33 Max Salminen 71
Extensive gallery of each day can be found at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/finnclassphotos/and on http://www.facebook.com/pages/Finn-Class/110408332633
Photo credit: Robert Deaves/Finn Class