It was all change in Scarlino on Thursday morning. The strong offshore wind that has been a feature of the past two days had given way to a light onshore wind. By 11:00 this had started to kick in so the fleet was sent out for a first start at 12:45 in 10-12 knots from the west and gloriously brilliant blue skies.
After one general recall, race six started under the black flag. Ed GREIG (GBR) started two boats up from the pin end, sailed to the left hand side, tacked on the corner and rounded the windward mark with a 10 boat length lead ahead of the rest of the British team. AINSLIE rounded second followed by Andrew MILLS (GBR), Ed WRIGHT (GBR) and Mark ANDREWS (GBR).
On the downwind AINSLIE gybed immediately to port and was soon in the lead which he extended all the way to the leeward gate. On the next upwind he played the shifts up the middle with GREIG maintaining second place. However the largest gain was made by Anthony NOSSITER (AUS) who moved from outside the top 15 to third place at the top mark.
On the downwind to the finish AINSLIE stretched out a significant lead to win the race by just under a minute. Behind him, second placed GREIG received a yellow flag and dropped to fifth doing his penalty turns. WRIGHT recovered from fourth at the top mark to cross the finish line in second with NOSSITER third and Daniel BIRGMARK (SWE) in fourth.
As on Wednesday, the race was recorded on film by Sailing Revolution and this race along with a series of interviews, as well as the rest of the action this week, is available free online at www.sailrev.tv. It's well worth a look.
Race 7 was very much the same with those favouring the left hand side looking rosy while those sailing to the right suffered severely. Starting 10-15 boats back from the pin end, WRIGHT sailed to the left hand corner to build a useful lead round the first mark. AINSLIE started beneath him but got buried and had to tack off and duck transoms. He managed to find a clear lane and worked up the middle to round the top mark just behind Wright. Third round the mark was Jonas HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN (DEN), who started right on the pin and also went to the left.
The leaders split gybes on the first downwind with a separation of up to 200 metres at one point. WRIGHT and AINSLIE took the right while HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN and Gasper VINCEC (SLO) took the left. At the gate, HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN had moved in front and rounded the port mark and sailed on few a few hundred metres before tacking back to the left. AINSLIE rounded the starboard mark right in front of WRIGHT and both sailed out to the left. When the three crossed again near the top of the beat, AINSLIE was clear ahead and has a useful gap on WRIGHT in second. Ivan KLJAKOVIC GASPIC (CRO) rounded just ahead of HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN.
On the final downwind, the wind started to drop significantly but AINSLIE managed to extend his lead to finish some 50 seconds ahead of WRIGHT.
In a bizarre twist, Chris COOK (CAN) second placed going into the day, protested AINSLIE for a start line incident, but both sailors were disqualified for separate incidents at the start. In addition, WRIGHT was scored OCS, so this left KLJAKOVIC GASPIC as the race winner, with HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN in second. Then VINCEC was disqualified after a top mark incident with Zach RAILEY (USA), leaving RAILEY with the third place finish, after crossing the line sixth.
Wednesday's overnight leader Guillaume FLORENT (FRA), who placed 12th and eighth on Thursday, holds a ten-point lead over AINSLIE. Wednesday's second placed, COOK also had a bad day scoring a 11th and a DSQ, and is placed third on 34 points.
Meanwhile, the battle for the Junior title is hotting up with Jan KURFELD (GER) reducing the points gap to the current leader Piotr KULA (POL) to just 11 points. Third placed Tomas VIKA (CZE) is some 77 points off the lead so will be looking to maintain his 31 points lead over fourth placed Junior Andriy GUSENKO (UKR).
AINSLIE commented, "The breeze is very consistent around here, although today it was further from the south, and the waves were a little different. Yesterday I made life hard for myself but today I chose the right side of the course and managed to take advantage of the left hand shift. I've never been here before but it really is a beautiful place. I got to see some of it while we were training but of course when we are racing we are 100 per cent focussed on the competition. I haven't cruised in a while, but this would be a great place to come and do some." The Gulf of Follonica is located in the heart of the Tuscan archipelago with the islands of Montecristo, Elba and Giglio a quick sail away.
Friday will be a crucial day as the final qualification race will be sailed to decide who will sail in the Medal Race on Saturday. There will also a ninth race for the rest of the fleet.
Results - click here