Fourth placed Ivan KLJAKOVIC GASPIC (CRO) is just two points further back and all four sailors have a realistic chance of taking one of dinghy sailing toughest titles in the double-points Medal Race to be sailed just outside the marina at 11:00 on Saturday.
Friday's racing was the toughest yet, with a cold south-westerly in place, raining most of the day with winds up to 25 knots and high seas.
Race nine winner RAILEY takes up the story, "I started down at the pin end and a left shift came in with about a minute to go and it took maybe 35 or 40 seconds before everyone tacked over to port before I could get over. But once I tacked it looked pretty good and I crossed all the way across the race course. I took one tack on starboard and got to the port layline and took one more shift and then myself and Bryan BOYD [(USA)] were 1, 2 round the top mark, so that was pretty cool."
The Americans were followed round by Daniel BIRGMARK (SWE), Mark ANDREWS (GBR), Tapio NIRKKO (FIN), Olexsiy BORYSOV (UKR) and HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN. Regatta leader Ed WRIGHT (GBR) picked up a black flag, removing any chance of the world title for him, as he now has to carry a 46th from the first race.
RAILEY continued, "Daniel BIRGMARK and I had a really good fight on the first downwind leg and then on the second upwind, the left came in again and I was just a little to the left of Daniel and Jonas." RAILEY led down the reaches to the finish, though HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN closed the gap to finish second ahead of BIRGMARK, Pieter-Jan POSTMA (NED) and NIRKKO.
Though the wind and waves made for great, if tough sailing, the cold rain made for a dismal wait between races. After several false starts, it finally got away in a slightly reduced breeze. The pin end was favoured again and very crowded with a number of boats, including RAILEY and HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN bailing out and restarting.
SCOTT won his second race of the series. He said, "In the second race I nailed the pin end tacked after about a minute or two and just cleared the fleet. Then I caught a big lift on starboard and went over the fleet again and had quite a lengthy lead round the first mark. It went right half way up and I was about the only boat to get into it."
RAILEY added, "The pin end was really favoured and I didn't want to risk being OCS which would have blown the regatta for me so I held back from the line. We had to bail out and I found a lane to get out to the left side and worked my way through the fleet." HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN was thinking alike, "I could have pushed it harder and maybe gotten in there but I didn't want to take the risk and get an OCS on the board. I just wanted to stay clear of any trouble and decided to play it little safer today."
SCOTT was followed round the top mark by RAILEY, Rafa TRUJILLO (ESP), BIRGMARK, WRIGHT and HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN. SCOTT continued, "I was pretty annoyed to see them [RAILEY and HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN] there. I saw Zach had bit of difficultly at the start but he caught up nicely."
RAILEY said, "We had a really good fight on the downwind but it got a little shiftier and lighter on the second upwind and I didn't want to take too many chances going to one side or the other and finished seventh so now have a good position going into the Medal Race."
SCOTT extended on the downwind and went on to take the race win, while WRIGHT caught up to second. BIRGMARK finished a steady day with another third place.
SCOTT said, "It's nice to have the fleet racing over. It's been quite a stressful week with the breeze being up and down. Today was better actually but there was till boats coming in from both corners, but it was just normally racing today. But it was so cold between races."
RAILEY said, "The points are really close for tomorrow. It's all up for grabs and will be very tough. The medal race is supposed to be very exciting and I think we will have an exciting one tomorrow. There are four guys who can win and it will be interesting to see what happens. All you can really ask for is to be in a position to finish on the podium at the end of the day."
HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN agreed, "It's going to be a fantastically tight race. All four of us are within a few points and anyone can take it, so I'm expecting a really tight and a good fun race."
SCOTT was more bullish, "It's going to be tight tomorrow, but bring it on!"
So the Medal Race Line up looks like this:
Zach RAILEY - USA
2008 Olympic silver medallist but yet to medal at a major championship. But sailing cooler and cleverer than ever, so this could be his year.
Jonas HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN - DEN
World Champion in 2006 and placed sixth at last year's Olympics. Hasn't raced since then and is here 'for fun', but his relaxed attitude is showing with the best scoreline of any sailor in the second half of the regatta,
Giles SCOTT - GBR
Fast improving young pretender who won last year's Junior Worlds in Melbourne. Won race three and ten here and has put together an impressive series. Placed second at the Delta Lloyd after leading all week and losing on the Medal Race to WRIGHT.
Ivan KLJAKOVIC GASPIC - CRO
Had an impressive series this year and been consistent this week, but hasn't won a race yet. Won Hyeres this year, and twice been runner up at the Europeans in 2007 and 2008.
Dan SLATER - NZL
Only really just returned since taking a beak after the Olympics and has a few rusty areas, but a great competitor. Can take silver if things go his way,
Daniel BIRGMARK - SWE
A typical performance from BIRGMARK this week. Very steady. Could just take the bronze, but it's a long shot.
Marin MISURA - CRO
Won a race this week, but too far adrift to take a medal. Made the top ten at the 2007 Gold Cup, but lost out on Olympic selection to KLJAKOVIC GASPIC.
Rafa TRUJILLO - ESP
2004 Olympic silver medallist and 2007 World Champion. Made life hard for himself this week with too many high scores and no possibility of a medal.
Ed WRIGHT - GBR
European Champion in 2006, and third in the Finn Gold Cup that year. So far this year he has won two ISAF Sailing World Cup events, won three of the Medal Races and has taken an unassailable lead in that series to take the title before the final event in Weymouth. But Friday's black flag has cost him dearly.
Andrew MILLS - GBR
Sailed a great series here for his best ever Gold Cup result. A lot of work to do to move up from 10th, at 15 points adrift of WRIGHT, but could easily be up the front.
The medal race is scheduled for 11:00 on Saturday, with the 11th race for the rest to follow immediately afterwards.
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