Forget first place; Friday will be all about fourth and who makes the semi-finals of the 47th Congressional Cup.
Two former winners, Italy's Francesco Bruni, winner of 14 of 15 round robin races, and France's Mathieu Richard (12-3) and Great Britain's Ian Williams (11-4) are locked into Saturday's sailoffs with the only winning records after 15 of 18 matches.
For the moment, Finland's Staffan Lindberg, ranked 19th in the world, is alone in fourth place, but 2009 winner Johnie Berntsson (SWE) Simone Ferrarese (ITA) and the 1983-1984 winner Dave Perry (USA) are pushing his transom at 6-9 each.
Berntsson has been struggling with inconsistency and is still fighting the rust of no racing since November.
If Bruni, the defending champion, stays alone on top, he'll have the privilege of choosing which of the other three he meets in the semi-finals.
"It isn't really a big thing,"
Bruni, said. "If you look at the last five years the guy who picked his opponent lost 70 per cent of the time. I don't want to think about it now."
Lindberg's remaining opponents are Berntsson, Evgeny Neugodnikov (RUS) (5-10) and Taylor Canfield of the U.S. Virgin Islands (4-11).
Canfield, who improved from 0-7 to 4-1 over the first two days, apparently was on a short roll. He went 0-4 Thursday, including a tough photo finish loss to Bruni.
Bruni led down to the wire while carrying a penalty from the start, with Canfield about five boat lengths behind. Then Bruni presented a brief clinic on how to shed a foul at the finish. As his spinnaker dropped, he did a complete circle next to the race committee boat and came around a length in front of the fast-closing Canfield, whose spinnaker was dragging him at a faster pace.
The RC judged Bruni the winner by one meter, although Canfield suggested later at the daily press conference that his spinnaker beat Bruni's naked bow to the line.
"There was sure debate on my team whether he had us or not, if our spinnaker crossed before his bow,"
But he didn't officially challenge the call.
"We're still developing as a team,"
he said. "We just don't have the experience some of these other guys do."
As it was, Bruni blamed himself for drawing the penalty that put him in that fix.
"The penalty was well deserved,"
he said. "We were over the line and not keeping clear of the windward boat."
"We are sailing very well and very fast and we aren't making many mistakes on the course."
Thursday's breeze was light to moderate from the south but only slightly shifty, unlike Wednesday. As for Friday, fears of a heavy storm with wind and rain eased with later reports that had the system in central California veering east over Nevada instead of south into Southern California.
After 15 of 18 flights
1. Francesco Bruni
2. Mathieu Richard
3. Ian Williams
4. Staffan Lindberg
5. Johnie Berntsson
(SWE), Simone Ferrarese
(ITA) and Dave Perry
8. Eugeniy Neugodnikov
9. Taylor Canfield
(U.S. Virgin Islands) and Philip Robertson