After an eleventh place finish followed by her first win of the week on Thursday, the tall and slender lesser known teenager from Shanghai has a twelve point lead over Germany's Petra NIEMANN with two of twelve races remaining today. The other four top five contenders - World number two Anna TUNNICLIFFE (USA), France's Sarah STEYAERT and Solenne BRAIN, and Poland's three-time World Champion Katarzyna SZOTYNSKA - all fell out of contention on a tricky day when going the wrong way cost a painful price.
RAILEY is in the rare territory of ninth overall, 47 points off the pace, after a 29th and a fourth.
With the second and last discard race now factored into the scoring, XU could afford at least one bad race Friday, but she does not seem concerned.
'To win the World Championship isn't my first goal,' she said. 'Making progress would mean more to getting to my goal.'
'That's everybody's goal. I just want to get the chance to represent my country in the Olympics.'
Which, of course, will be in her country in 2008.
XU has been best at solving the Chinese puzzle that is Santa Monica Bay. After a day and a half of mid teens breeze, the wind went back to a light five and half to nine knots on Thursday, and most of XU's closest pursuers suffered in the shifts and lulls. She fought for eleventh place in the first race but still extended her lead on the next three, as NIEMANN chased her all the way.
|Traffic jam at the pin end
© Rich ROBERTS
And when she overtook Australia's Krystal WEIR, the 2004 World Champion, to win the second race she all but put the title in the bank, as TUNNICLIFFE suffered from a 33,10 day her worst of the week by far - and RAILEY's hopes for a comeback all but vanished with a 29th, though she kept fighting to finish the second race with a fourth.
VAN ACKER, a 20 year old chemistry student at the University of Amsterdam, said, '[The wind] was really [favoured on the] right today. I wasn't sure of it, but it just felt right, and all of the other girls in the lead had gone to the left side [of the course]. I felt good today.'
ELIAS CALLES said, 'It was very shifty, and the breeze was up and down all the time.'
XU and VAN ACKER seem likely to meet again at Qingdao, and probably a few times before. VAN ACKER said that in Belgium, 'It's just me and a bunch of younger girls sailing Radials, and nobody else is running a full campaign.'
'She caught me when I just didn't cover her well,' WEIR said. 'I've had a very up and down regatta. Yesterday I had a 20 and a 4 and today I had a 22 and a 2. The conditions are quite challenging and the starts are quite congested. If you don't get a good start and have to go through the fleet, it's tough.'
But like most of her peers, she likes the boat switch.
'It was a good decision,' she said. 'The Europe was more technical and the same girls were always in the top ten. Now it's much more competitive.'
Meanwhile, RAILEY and nine others in the women's gold fleet, along with the women's silver and the men's Radial Worlds, are tiptoeing with two yellow flag infractions involving Rule 42 kinetics - pumping the sail, sculling or rocking. Three means a boot from the regatta. In all, there have been 35 first yellows plus the ten seconds.
Steven LE FEVRE (NED) moved back to the top in the men's fleet yesterday after a bullet in the day's second race. Brazil's Fabio PILLAR had a great day with 2,4 scores shooting him back up the leaderboard to second overall, five points behind the leader. Behind him, Jon EMMETT (GBR) is just edging the battle for the final podium spot, one point ahead of Steven KROL (NED).
Women's Top Ten
|3||BEL||Evi VAN ACKER||2||3||(25)||20||10||5||(23)||9||1||3||53|
|4||MEX||Tania ELIAS CALLES||8||8||8||3||9||(23)||1||(28)||6||12||55|
|8||FRA||Sophie DE TURKHEIM||(26)||10||(30)||11||4||9||6||11||7||13||71|
Men's Top Ten
|1||NED||Steven LE FEVRE||4||4||1||(41)||15||2||4||(31)||17||1||48|
|9||SIN||Seng Leong KOH||12||3||33||7||24||8||18||4||(BFD)||(63)||109|
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