Once again it was all about minimizing risk and loss, trying to get a clean start and playing the shifts - far from easy in the 8 knots of breeze that atypically for a southeasterly in this region was far from warm. Not that the crews would have felt cold. The pressure was on from the first start or the day and did not let up until the finish.
Some crews must have wondered whether they were having a good or bad day, as the leaders in one race would find themselves the wrong side of a shift in the next and out the back door. Not only was picking the course side and the wind shifts a problem, in race 2 Team Revolution struggled to get off the start line at all, when a crush near the pin left them hooked up to the buoy. Overnight leaders Norwegian Steam were caught up in the same melee and finished the race in 20th place, which served to open up the regatta once more after Eivind ASTRUP (NOR) and crew looked to be nailing the door shut with a second in the first race of the day.
Elsewhere, TWT (second overnight) suffered two poor results and the frustration of this must have been compounded when they incurred a penalty on the last run of the day and got the spinnaker halyard tangled as they executed their turn. But with every crew suffering at some point and the possibility of five races to go much of the fleet remains in with a chance, as Mascalzone Latino's tactician Adrian STEAD (GBR) flippantly remarked, 'Anywhere in the top 20 feels like a good result!'
Vincenzo ONORATO (ITA) and his Mascalzone crew are sailing their Farr 40 for the first time in four months and it is a new boat too. Thursday saw a marked improvement as they posted a score line of 1,5,13 - the first race proving the existence of passing lanes as they moved from fifth place at the first mark to a winning position by the end of the second beat. All things considered, STEAD felt pleased to be only ten points off the lead halfway through the regatta.
For Kokomo, it was another day of mostly solid results. The 12th in race 2 mirrored their worst result from Wednesday and with an average score of seven points they are not far off the target set by Owner/Driver Lang WALKER, 'It's important to keep your bad days to a minimum. What we've tried to do is average five points per race. We're not quite there yet but with 42 points we're averaging seven, so in these tricky conditions we are pretty happy, but we've got to try a bit harder tomorrow.'
WALKER is quite clear on where there is room for improvement and with the prospect of the difficult conditions continuing would be happy if the regatta could end now, 'We had some shocking starts today. We kept getting in the wrong place every time at the start line, but we managed to scramble out and we are very pleased with the day. Our 12th was not all that flash but we finished off on a high so they should stop the regatta here.'
Tactician and six-time Olympian Colin BEASHEL (AUS) also emphasized the importance of a good start, 'We had pretty good day although we didn't get off the line well in any of the starts. The boat's going well. Lang's doing a good job on the helm, keeping a very fine groove, and we've got plenty of boat speed which allows me to watch and pick a few shifts of which there are plenty out there. We've managed to work our way up into some good positions throughout the racing. A good start is important since it gives you the freedom to sail the shifts and there are lots of little pressure lines out there. We've been pretty fortunate that even though we haven't got off the line cleanly we have been able to pop out to our favoured side and work the shifts up there, and so far our bad starts have not been a problem, but we'd be much happier if we got off the line better.'
Kokomo is another crew using the European circuit as preparation for the Rolex Farr 40 Worlds scheduled for August in Copenhagen. Both WALKER and BEASHEL see the event shaping up nicely and in typical Aussie style seem happy to take the rough with the smooth, as WALKER remarked, 'Every time you go up the ladder little bit everyone else goes up a little bit or you fall back down. Minimising risks is the big thing, but everyone in the class just seems to be ramping up and getting better and better every time they go out. There are no slouches out there, they are all damn good sailors.'
In second place overall lies Dario FERRARI's (ITA) Cannonball which posted a 13,3,5 on Thursday. Cannonball has yet to post a win in the series, but overall victory at Farr 40 regattas rarely rests on a stellar performance. FERRARI is enjoying the racing and the tight competition, despite a poor finish in the second race on day one. He said last night, 'Yesterday we competed very well in two races and ended the day in fourth place. Unfortunately, the 16th place in yesterday's second race spoilt our day and our standing. We got the lay line wrong, after gaining a good position. We went too far, got too high and were trapped behind the bulk of the fleet.'
Thursday was an altogether better day, 'After a slow start our tactician [Cameron APPLETON (NZL)] warmed up nicely and we got in phase with the race, the boat was fast and the crew was confident. The races were nice with all the boats competing at a similar level in the light and shifty wind conditions. This suited me perfectly since I tend to perform better in such situations.'
APPLETON is also enjoying the competitiveness of the fleet and taking disappoint results in his stride, 'Today we definitely performed better than the previous day. In the first race we were fourth into the bottom mark, but after that we were positioned badly for a wind shift and were passed by 8 boats. Then we got a better performance in the following two races and ended the day with a great second place in the overall standings. It's a strong fleet and to be consistent is very difficult even if you are on top of the fleet. Every day is a new day and you need to perform at your best. It is always great to race at this level, because you can always learn. No matter who they are or what their background is - Olympic Games or America's Cup - anyone can be beaten.'
In third place overall, on 50 points, lies Nerone and despite a score line today of 11,15,7, owner Massimo MEZZAROMA (ITA) and tactician Vasco VASCOTTO (ITA) are only eight points off the lead and with no discards allowed, the series remains open to anyone with the skill and luck to put together a series of good scores.