Ben AINSLIE (GBR) led the charge at the ISAF Grade 2 Qingdao International Regatta with another two bullets to continue his remarkable comeback to the Finn class. Along with AINSLIE, GBR appears at the top of the leaderboard in the Laser, Men's 470 and 49er fleets, whilst Iain PERCY and Steve MITCHELL (GBR) tie with Andy HORTON and Brad NICHOL (USA) for top spot in the Star. Top three spots in the Yngling and Laser Radial complete the British success story so far.
Whereas AINSLIE's success has been built on a relentless succession of bullets, elsewhere the British strategy of conservatism seems to be paying dividends. If consistency wins regattas then nowhere has that been more true than in Qingdao over the past week. The high quality fleets, light conditions experienced so far, strong current and especially the sailors' unfamiliarity with the waters of Fushan Bay have put a premium on staying away from the double figure scores.
470 European Champions Benjamin BONNAUD and Romain BONNAUD (FRA) provide the perfect example. They are the only team in the Men's 470 fleet counting three top-three finishes (two bullets and a second), but lie 14th overall, with finishes of 35,23,33,32 also on their scorecard.
Today the wind was again light but stable, with the scheduled races completed across all the race areas, except for the Women's RS:X. They will return to Fushan Bay tomorrow to complete the final races of their opening series along with all the other classes except the Laser and Laser Radial, who finished their last race of the opening series today.
Sophie DE TURCKHEIM (FRA) won today's race with RAILEY behind her in second despite being yellow flagged and having to take penalty turns. For DE TURCKHEIM, despite not making it to the Medal Race, the bullet was a satisfying end to the regatta. 'At the beginning I tried to understand how the wind works and did not pay enough attention to the race and the other girls,' she explained. 'That's why I didn't score very well. The conditions here are very tough and it's a very long regatta. But today I did well and I am very happy with that.'
ALEH was a rock solid third, whilst Karin SODERSTROM (SWE) made a late charge for the Medal Race with a fourth. That put the pressure on China's young World Champion Lijia XU, who just managed to do enough, finishing 14th and beating SODERSTROM to tenth place overall on countback. XU's team mate, Xiaoying SHEN (CHN) had an even better race, finishing ninth to move up to ninth overall and also qualify for the Medal Race.
Third place overall Penny CLARK (GBR) had a steady race coming in seventh. Going into the Medal Race she is just four points off the silver medal and already assured of bronze, 27 points ahead of fourth place Katarzyna SZOTYNSKA (POL).
Ingrid PETITJEAN and Nadege DOUROUX (FRA) were unable to find their usual consistency in today's two Women's 470 races, but still extended their lead as all their closet rivals also struggled in the light winds and strong current out on Course Area C. The rapidly rising star of Israeli youngster Adi GILBOA, sailing with more experienced crew Vered BOUSKILA, had a great day, opening with a bullet before adding an eighth place finish in race nine to move up from twelfth to seventh overall.
PETITJEAN and DOUROUX got stuck in the main body of the fleet in the day's first race, eventually coming in 18th, and responded by taking the safe line up the middle in race nine. The strategy paid off as they rounded the top mark just inside the top ten and were able to pick off a couple more places to finish in sixth, extending their overall lead to 14 points.
With all the leaders struggling, European Champions Stefanie ROTHWEILER and Vivien KUSSATZ (GER) move up into second place overall after a 9,3 day and Therese TORGERSSON and Vendela ZACHRISSON (SWE) drop back to third.
Following the abandonment of yesterday's race after several requests for redress under Rule 62.1(a) were granted, the Men's 470 fleet headed out to Course Area C today to complete races six and seven of their opening series. Ronan DREANO and Ronan FLOCH (FRA) were the undoubted stars, winning a tight battle with Javier CONTE and Juan DE LA FUENTE (ARG) to take a bullet in the first race, and following it up with a third place to climb up from 28th to twelfth overall and within shooting distance of the Medal Race.
Olympic silver medallists and overall leaders Nick ROGERS and Joe GLANFIELD (GBR) were playing it safe and after a good start in the opening race eventually crossed in seventh place, just two behind their closet challengers Daeyoung KIM and Sungahn JUNG (KOR). A tactical error in the next race cost them dearly, as the Brits slipped back through the fleet eventually finishing 17th, but crucially two places ahead of KIM and JUNG to maintain their 15 point overall lead.
World Champions and World number one crew Chris DRAPER and Simon HISCOCKS (GBR) moved to the top of the 49er leaderboard today, with their conservative approach paying off in the tricky conditions of Fushan Bay. Overnight leaders Emmanuel DYEN and Yann ROCHERIEUX (FRA) fall back to second place after a 5,15,13 day.
DRAPER and HISCOCKS began the day with a message of intent. Sticking to the safe lines that served them well last week, the pair were able to sail through the leaders to post a bullet in the opening race of the day. Behind them Olympic Champions Iker MARTINEZ and Xavier FERNANDEZ (ESP) came in second as Peter HANSEN and Soren HANSEN (DEN) saw victory slip through their fingers, as they were passed by the Brits and the Spaniards on the downwind to the finish.
Second place was the start of a much needed fight back from MARTINEZ and FERNANDEZ, who went on to score 6,6 in the next two races to move from 15th to eleventh overall, although they still lie eleven points off the all important top ten.
DRAPER and HISCOCKS added a second place to their bullet in race nine, coming in behind Athens silver medallists Rodion LUKA and Georgiy LEONCHUK (UKR). The Ukrainians posted another bullet in the next to move up into third place overall, whilst DRAPER and HISCOCKS slipped up with an eleventh place, reducing their lead at the top to just three points.
DRAPER was not getting carried away despite moving up into first place. 'It really doesn't make any difference. What really matters is who's leading at the end. So we're just sailing the races as they come and limiting the risks and getting good results - not necessarily fantastic ones, just solid ones.'
Another day and another two bullets for Ben AINSLIE (GBR) extends the Olympic Champion's lead of the Finn fleet to 14 points. In his return to the Finn, AINSLIE has simply been a class apart in the light winds experienced so far in Qingdao. Whilst the fleet was battling the current and bunched up towards the top mark in race 8, AINSLIE was already sailing off into the distance on his way to a seventh bullet of the regatta.
Emilios PAPATHANASIOU's (GRE) two second places, most impressively in race eight when he fought his way back through the fleet, make him more secure in second place. World Champion Jonas HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN (DEN) goes third overall after a 6,4 day.
HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN was not getting overly worried by AINSLIE's dominate return to the class. 'He is very light which means in this light winds he is sailing much faster than anybody else,' commented the Dane. 'Ben AINSLIE is only 85 kilograms and I am 120 kilograms. This makes a big difference.'
Scores of 3,9 for Brendan CASEY (AUS) added up to the best day yet for the Australian in his first regatta since switching from the Laser to the Finn. He lies two points behind Olympic silver medallist Rafael TRUJILLO (ESP), just outside the Medal Race places in eleventh.
HORTON and NICHOL overtake their team mates and World number one crew George SZABO and Eric MONROE (USA) thanks to a start to finish bullet in race eight, whilst PERCY and MITCHELL posted two second places. SZABO and MONROE were OCS in race seven, but recovered with a third place and are just two points off the leaders in third place overall.
The Australian team of Peter CONDE and Andrew HUNN had a good day with 1,4 scores, as the small but high quality Star fleet is looking all set to head towards a very tight Medal Race.