Yesterday was a similar story for Italian girls, the defending European Champions Giulia Conti and Giovanna Micol (ITA) mucking up the first race with a comedy of errors and then making amends with a win in the next. Their big breeze outing today was almost as good as Patience and Bithell's, with Conti and Micol winning the first two heats and coming a close second in the next.
With the discard now coming into play, the British move to the front of the men's fleet and the Italians have become the leading ladies. Bithell was pleased, but not overly surprised, at scoring a perfect day on the windy race course. "Three races, three bullets. In those conditions, when Luke and myself press the right buttons we're very hard to beat," said Bithell, who attributed most of their success to just plain old boatspeed, and a little bit of smart thinking. "It is very easy to be smart when you're so fast. There were some oscillations but mainly the boatspeed pulled us through, bought us a good lane out of the start every time."
Bithell's not counting his chickens quite yet, though. "Still a long way to go, and another black flag would probably see us drop outside the top 10. But if there was ever a day where you could say 'champagne conditions', 16 knots breeze, 25 degree temperatures, waves, sunshine, today was the day. Perfect."
Conti was almost as pleased with her day, except she was trying to massage her forearms back into life after a particularly hard day for the 470 helms. Big waves demanded a lot of mainsheet work upwind and a lot of pumping downwind. "I have some problems with my arms and it's something I need to get fixed after the season is finished," said Conti, who always puts her heart and soul into every race she competes in. "Today makes up for yesterday," she said. "We were pretty fast, surfing a lot downwind, and it was warm. A perfect day, I loved it."
Ingrid Petitjean and Nadège Douroux hauled themselves up the rankings today too, the French team taking the last race off the Italians and coming second in the other two. "We didn't expect it to be so windy, but it was up to 18 knots, maybe 20, and big waves, good fun downwind," said Petitjean, hiding behind her spray-deflecting sunglasses. "A 470 helm can't see anything on a windy day. Today, my eyes were Nadege."
Sylvia Vogl and Carolina Flatscher of Austria are back in the 470 for the first time in 14 months, and had a good day despite their lack of practice. "Really nice conditions, but everything hurts," said Vogl. "The waves were crazy, a lot of work upwind and downwind." They lie in 7th overall.
In the men's fleet, Patience and Bithell hold the lead with defending European Champions from Croatia, Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic, lying in 2nd overall. "Luke Patience was hard to catch today, and we were fast downwind but not so good upwind," said Fantela. "Tomorrow we have one more qualifying race and our aim is to stay in the top five, maybe top 10, so we carry through a good set of scores into the Gold Fleet."
Tomorrow the race committee plans to hold the final qualifying race for the men's fleet in the morning, before they are divided into Gold and Silver fleets, while the women continue to race a straight series in one division.
The 2010 Open 470 European Championships conclude with the Medal Race on 6 September. The regatta is organised by The Istanbul Sailing Club in co-operation with the International 470 Class Association and the Turkish Sailing Federation.
You can follow the racing live online, via the GPS tracking system, which will be displayed here: www.onlineracetrack.net