Ireland's Annalise Murphy goes into the final races of the Laser European and World Championships tomorrow (Friday) on her native Dublin Bay with a comprehensive 17 point lead ahead of Dutch Olympic silver medallist Marit Bowmeester.
With the prospect of a breezy finale on the waters off Dun Laoghaire Murphy is looking to resume the same kind of form which has led to seven wins from her nine starts here and convert her big lead to her first major Laser Radial title. A disappointing 27th in today's light breezes is her discardable result.
In contrast the contest for the titles and trophies in the Olympic men's fleet is very delicately poised after two tricky races in light and unpredictable northerly winds today which made consistency very elusive. Indeed of the top ten sailors in the Men's fleet all sailed one good result and one poor, discarded race.
As Britain's Nick Thompson promoted himself to the top of the standings with a second place in the second of their pair of races today to earn a two points margin ahead of Croatia's Tonci Stipanovic and three up on Holland's Rutger Schaardenburg, Brazil's Robert Scheidt returned to shore frustrated to have scored his second poor result in consecutive days. After winning the first race he fell into a wind hole in the second contest and struggled to a 24th.
Scheidt, who will bid for his ninth Laser world title in Oman in November, has returned to the class after seven years in the Star keelboat. He believes that racing in amongst most of the best in the class at the moment he is close to being back to his best, but needs to polish up on his consistency.
"I think that independent of tomorrow's results I have the chance to win regattas the way that I am sailing,"
Scheidt confirmed today, "I think that I have already proven this week that I sail well in strong winds, I can sail well in light winds. I am still not as consistent as I used to be but it shows the field is pretty open and I can still do well."
After taking time out from the Laser Thompson, who missed out on the British Sailing Team's selection to the last Olympics despite twice finishing runner up at consecutive World Championships behind Australia's Tom Slingsby, would love to mark his return with the first major title of his long and distinguished career. Since winning the 2004 ISAF Youth World title in 2004, Thompson has won world cup and international regattas but has yet to win a major class title.
"I am pleased with the way I have sailed at the event so far,"
Thompson said, "I have made few mistakes. The Worlds is the main focus but this event is hugely important, but for me it is nice to feel I am sailing back on top of my game again. The competition is great with Rutger, Scheidt and Tonci all up there and so I am looking to an interesting final day."
Thompson's pair of results - a 30th and a second - were characteristic of the day's highly unpredictable conditions. In the offshore northerly breeze, choosing the best side of the first beat was key but there were big holes in the breeze which summarily halted many of the top seeds in their tracks.
Croatia's Tonci Stipanovic, twice European champion in the past, has a slightly better discard in his locker, but Thompson has been better in the stronger breeze, scoring best of the fleet in Wednesday's wilder winds.
Although the men finished two races for the Olympic rigged fleets, the corresponding Women's Radial class only managed one because the fickle breeze died away too much. Murphy was disappointed not to have the chance to atone immediately for her disappointing 27th place, while Bouwmeester was also dismayed that only one race in her preferred lighter conditions was sailed.
The Dutch sailor said, "It is a shame to only get one race. It looked like a bit of an early decision. That is a shame. It was a tricky race which reminded me a bit of Weymouth in the N'ly wind, so it was nice to race in that again. I was just in the top group at the windward mark and then got up to second on the second upwind. But we will be back hiking again tomorrow."
Annalise Murphy says she will change nothing for the decisive final day, concentrating on making better starts than today's which was the start of a frustrating downwards spiral which was concluded when she ran out of breeze close to the finish line. "It was difficult,"
Murphy said, " I had a bad start and struggled to get into the race in the first half, but made a good comeback on the second upwind, the last downwind and the reach to get into the top 15. But I was close to the finish line and then the wind died. I was not moving and could do nothing at all about it. I lost 15 places at the finish line and so that was disappointing. It was a shame not to get a second race in. The breeze came in but it is always hard to tell.
"I am disappointed with today. I would much preferred to have a 15th rather than a 27th or whatever it is. I will just have to get out there and have good races on the last day. I just need to get better starts than today's and try and not make any mistakes."
While Bouwmeester rose to second overall she is now just three points up on Britain's Ali Young.
In the Men's Laser Radial World Championship Australia's defending champion Tristan Brown won again to build his lead to 18 points. Ireland's Finn Lynch, the home club's ISAF Youth World Championships silver medallist leads the European Championship by two points ahead of Poland's three times world champion Marcin Rudawski.
Lynch, who sails from the National YC said, "The conditions were very shifty and challenging conditions today. I had a good start and was in 10th at the first mark and then climbed to first but then dropped to third at the line. Tomorrow I am hoping for two solid races and to hold on to a podium position tomorrow."
for full results.