Rounding off a long day on the sun drenched waters off Miami's South Beach with their fourth race win from seven starts, Niklas Zennström's Rán Racing lead the Gaastra 52 World Championships by four clear points going in to Saturday, the final racing day.
Competition has been brought forward by one hour to try and ensure three races form a suitable finale, taking full advantage of the forecasted brisk winds. Zennström's team were, again, the best scorers of the day with their 4,3,1 for the three windward-leeward contests which were sailed directly off South Beach in testing 7-12 knots winds.
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With two different breezes fighting for supremacy, one offshore and one closer to the beach, the balance of power changed all the time through the afternoon but Rán Racing's
tactician Adrian Stead - already a past winner of the 52 world title - was on top of the game throughout.
The hallmark of a true world champion is as much their ability to climb through the fleet from a lowly early position and convert it to a useful score as the ability to win races. Rán Racing
achieved that in the first race. Sixth at the top mark first time up, they were actually unfortunate to lose third to Quantum Racing in the final stages of the last run.
fourth race win of the series came with a text book start which allowed them to gain early control of what proved to be the favoured right side of the course where the wind pressure was strongest.
Stead cautions firmly that there is still potentially 30% of the regatta left. Although they have four points in hand, their job is far from done, especially considering the winds are due to exceed 20kts, "We are achieving our goals of being in the top three each day for the day every day and so we go in to tomorrow with a very good chance along with Azzurra and Quantum.
"I think tomorrow we will see different conditions again, slightly more wind pressure - three more races - that is still 30% of the regatta still to go.We are all taking our chances. But being able to dig yourselves out is important to convert a fifth to a third, a sixth to a fourth.
"If you feel strongly about something in this fleet you have to go for it and go out and win races.
"We are pleased with how we are sailing. It is the best we have sailed since the Royal Cup last year, so hopefully we can round it off with a good day tomorrow."
Both of Rán's
main rivals had one weighty score apiece today. Azzurra's
fifth - from the second race - and Quantum Racing's
sixth in the third race allowed Zennström's team breathing space. Azzurra
are four points adrift of Rán, whilst Doug DeVos' Quantum Racing
are now eight points off the lead.
The message from both Azzurra's
skipper Guillermo Parada, and Quantum Racing's
Ed Reynolds is that they need to come out Saturday and sail their own races, look for race wins and not be unnecessarily distracted by other boats.
Parada said, "I think we need to go out tomorrow and win races and forget about the other boats. We need to make points and go for wins."
Reynolds, "Our plan tomorrow is to come out and sail our own races. Hopefully we get all three races in. It is do-able. It's a big, big gesture but I like our group."
Race wins in this fleet are not exclusive to those lying in the top three overall. Jim Swartz's experienced Vesper
crew won the second race today following on from Tony Langley's triumph in the first race.
Indeed Langley's Gladiator looked to be on course for a great day after a third in the next race, but they had to take a penalty in the last heat which resulted in an eighth.
Gaastra 52 World Championships, Results after 7 races.
1 Rán Racing (Zennström, SWE) 17pts (7,1,1,1,4,2,1)
2 Azzurra (Roemmers, ITA) 21 pts (1,2,3,5,2,5,3)
3 Quantum Racing (DeVos, USA) 25pts (3,4,2,3,3,4,6)
4 Gladiator (Langley, GBR) 29pts (2,6,5,4,1,3,8)
5 Vesper (Swartz, USA) 30pts (5,5,7,2,6,1,4)
6 Interlodge (Fragomen, USA) 37pts (4,7,4,7,5,8,2)
7 Gaastra-Pro (Blees, NED) 46pts (6,8,6,8,7,6,5)
8 Rio (Moshayedi, USA) 47pts (8,3,8,6,8,7,7)