Another great performance from the Olympic Champion Ben Ainslie (GBR) on the fourth day of racing for the Finns at the Weymouth and Portland International Regatta moves him into a narrow, but significant, seven point lead at the top of the fleet after posting a first and second on Wednesday. Pieter Jan Postma (NED) moves up to second place after winning the second race of the day while Jonathan Lobert (FRA) drops one to third, with just two more races to sail before the medal race split.
What was initially supposed to be a lighter day on the waters of Weymouth Bay turned into a tough day's sailing as the wind once again treated the Finn fleet to physically challenging upwind sailing and sleigh ride sailing downwind. For the first race of the day the Finns were racing on the Nothe course, the proposed course area for all the medal races. In an offshore wind, with the high land at the top of the course it can be a shifty, fickle nightmare for the sailors.
However, when the regatta leader not only wins there but dominates the race in spectacular fashion, there is little more to be said. After a shifty first beat, Pieter Jan Postma (NED) led round the top mark from Rafa Trujillo (ESP) and Jonas Hogh Christensen (DEN). However after rounding in fifth, Ben Ainslie (GBR) moved into the lead on the first downwind and then extended on the fleet for the rest of the four lap race to win by a comfortable margin of around 50 seconds. Second across the finish was Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) who rounded the first mark in 13th. He made big gains on the first downwind and second upwind to move up to second, while Trujillo crossed in third.
To add a bit of variety, race eight was sailed inside Portland Harbour. As the wind increased to 20-25 knots, Trujillo led round the top mark with Postma and Ainslie not far behind. As he has shown several times this week, Postma's excellent offwind speed allowed him to take the lead on the first downwind, which he held on to the finish. Ainslie had also passed Trujillo and was started to close the gap, however, Postma kept his nerve to record his third race win of the week and move up to second overall. Ainslie finished second with Trujillo again in third.
Ainslie said, “Today was a good day, but tough conditions. They were very different courses tactically but still hard work in the breeze. The second race was a really good race with PJ, Rafa and myself. I got past Rafa on one of the runs and caught PJ a little but it was quite a one sided track and hard to live with the big guys on the upwind legs. It was a fun race though.
“We have tried to train on all of the courses and they're all pretty unique. The breeze was pretty shifty on the Nothe course but the wind was relatively stable today.
On how tight it still is at the top he said, “I think with fewer boats and the stronger winds then some of the guys with a speed advantage in the breeze are pulling through and getting some consistency.
And tomorrow, “More of the same, hike hard and hang in there.”
Jonathan Lobert has held onto second overall all week until today and now drops to third after a 4, 7. he said, “Today it was a pretty special day. Outside on Nothe the wind was not too strong but very shifty. I managed to finish fourth and I was very happy with that as a lot of guys had a pretty bad race.”
“For the second race we went inside. The wind increased quite a lot and also the waves. I had the feeling that my boat was jumping up and down on every wave. It was not so pleasant and very tough! On the first beat I didn't play full left so I was rounding the first mark around 10th. I managed to gain few boats but then we just had to follow each other to the finish. It was actually not so fun but I am happy with my seventh place. I am looking forward to the two last races to try to come back to the top of the board.”
Zach Railey (USA) didn't have the best day with a 16, 11. He said, “Not a good day results wise. My lack of body weight was really exposed today. But I am becoming more comfortable with te wind shifts.”
A mention must also go to the superb effort from the young Greg Douglas (CAN) who finished fifth in the race, after a 10th in the morning race, which moved him up to 13th overall and within 10 points of the medal race split. Douglas said, "The sailing was definintly not easy today, sailing a Finn in 20 knots and more will always be painful and is about who can push through the pain. I liked sailing on the Nothe and Harbour courses, they were similar to Toronto Harbour where I train back in Canada. It is important to keep your head out of the boat and never give up. It got pretty windy for the second race and the wind was up around 20 knots plus by the end of the race.
"It would be amazing to make the medal race in this fleet. Even if I don't make it, I am very happy with the way I have sailed over the last few days and have shown to myself that I have what it takes to compete with these guys and that I need to keep working hard. Coming into this event, I wasn't really sure how I would do. I thought if I sailed well I could finish in the top 15."
With a 2, 6, Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic stays in fifth overall. “Today was good as I planned. I said to myself that I want to perform good today, and I did it. Maybe the second race was bit worse as I made a few tiny mistakes but overall I am happy. The Nothe course was funny but it was easy to realise that there was a pattern to follow and it went well. It was surprisingly easy to sail and wasn't as tricky as I thought it would be. Generally the wind was stable but it was gusty and bit shifty.”
There are just two more races left to sail on Thursday to decide who goes into Saturday’s medal race. It is becoming a familiar picture at the top, with Ainslie being the only sailor to be counting only top five positions including three race wins, though Postma and Lobert are very close behind and poised to pounce should the Olympic Champion slip up.
The Weymouth and Portland International Regatta 2011 is the test event for the sailing events of the London 2012 Olympic Games, as part of the London Prepares series. The Finns are scheduled to have 10 races from Saturday 6 August to Thursday 11 August, with reserve days on Tuesday and Friday. The medal race for the top 10 is scheduled to take place on Saturday 13 August There are five course areas (three offshore, one in Portland Harbour and one under the Nothe) and the fleet will race on all the courses over the week.
Result after eight races (one discard)
2 NED Pieter Jan Postma 22
3 FRA Jonathan Lobert 26
4 ESP Rafa Trujillo 38
5 CRO Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic 39
6 EST Deniss Karpak 41
7 DEN Jonas Hoegh Christensen 46
8 NZL Dan Slater 56
9 USA Zach Railey 62
10 SLO Gasper Vincec 70
Photos: Thom Touw, Mike Rice - Fotoboat
Event website: http://www.sailing.org/london2012/2011-test-event.php
Full Results: http://www.sailing.org/uploads/WPIR2011/Finn_Results.pdf
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