Light winds threw a new set of dice onto the table on day four for the Finn fleet at the 2011 Rolex Miami OCR. Race wins went to Bryan Boyd (USA) and Ben Ainslie (GBR), though Giles Scott (GBR) still maintains the overall lead, though by a much reduced margin.
It was a real mix-up day on Biscayne Bay with lots of drama and most sailors picking up a high score at some point. An early morning 5-7 knots gave way to a glassy sea and then an even lighter race late in the day after a four hour wait.
Race six was sailed in a shifty 5-7 knots that really faded by the finish. Last year's medal race winner here Bryan Boyd (USA) comfortably took the race from Rafal Szukiel (POL) and Brendan Casey (AUS). The lighter winds brought a lot of new faces to the front of the fleet and a lot of upsets. Only four of the top 10 overnight managed top 10 placings. Scott placed eighth to see his points lead diminished in just one race. Ben Ainslie crossed in fourth with Andrew Mills (GBR) in fifth, but Ainslie later had his fourth placed converted to a DNE after a second yellow flagging incident. This now seriously hampers any chance he has of winning a medal this week.
Second placed Szukiel said, “It was a very long day. On the first upwind I decided to go in the middle of the course. It wasn't best idea but also not the worst one. At the first mark I was about 10th. Than I decided to go to right side, there were less boats around to disturb me. On the next upwind I caught a very nice shift from the left and I passed few boats to take second place. I finished very close to Brendan, but we had no idea who was second.”
“The race was won by Brian with some advantage. He was sailing very smart, controlling the fleet and fast.”
The race committee tried to start another race for most of the afternoon with the AP flying until 15.44 when the fleet started race seven as the breeze finally started to fill in...but it wouldn't last.
Szukiel continued, “The wind was very light, around 5 knots and less. We started but the wind dropped to 3 knots and in these conditions you need a lot of luck. I was lucky but I took a penalty at the start. I went to the left on the upwind and far away from other boats on the downwind and it paid again and I finished 6th.”
Ben Ainslie found the front of the fleet leading through the downwind gate from Andrew Mills (GBR) and Gasper Vincec (SLO). The wind was disappearing fast, but the leading three boats crossed the finish in that order and the fleet finished the race before the wind gave up altogether. Other fleets weren't so lucky.
“This wasn't an easy race especially because of the huge holes without any wind. Ben won that race with nice style because he was sailing away from the dangerous holes."
Ainslie's DNE has given Scott a breathing space of six points from Casey going into tomorrow's final qualification races. Andrew Mills climbs to third place after a 4-2, now just three points behind Casey. After picking up a 20-12 today, Railey drops to fourth, seven points further back.
There will be a lot of interest in who makes the cut for the medal race on Friday as there are just 10 points between eighth and 13th. The lighter winds have allowed sailors such as Szukiel and Boyd to catch up points with the leaders, so it should be an interesting battle. In addition, more than half the boats in the top ten already have a high points discard, so any more slip ups could prove costly indeed.
The opening series concludes on Friday with the medal race for the top 10 on Saturday 29 January.
Results after seven races:
1 GBR 41 Giles Scott 15
2 AUS 1 Brendan Casey 21
3 GBR 85 Andrew Mills 24
4 USA 4 Zach Railey 31
5 SLO 5 Gasper Vincec 32
6 SLO 573 Vasilij Zbogar 43
7 GBR 3 Ben Ainslie 53
8 POL 7 Rafal Szukiel 59
9 SWE 736 Johan Tillander 59
10 USA 619 Caleb Paine 61
Full results at:http://www.ussailing.org/Rolex/2011/finn/finn.html
Follow the live blog at: http://rmocr.ussailing.org/live_4823.htm
Pics: Rolex/Daniel Forster