After Tuesday's long, hard day on the Gulf of Follonica, the Finn sailors arrived at the La Marina di Scarlino hoping for a less wearing day on the body and mind. Conditions were the same as the previous day, so rather than wait on the water, the race committee postponed onshore until 13:30 while the wind gradually died and then shifted to a sea breeze of 6-8 knots.
Race four was started at 14:40 with the pin end favoured and the fleet got cleanly away first time. Several favourites including yesterday's race winner Pieter-Jan POSTMA (NED), Jonas HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN (DEN) and Ben AINSLIE (GBR) all started next to the pin and tacked across to the right after 200 metres. However the right was paying well and FLORENT built up a useful lead into the first mark over Tapio NIRKKO (FIN) and 2005 World Junior Champion, Jan KURFELD (GER). HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN rounded in seventh and AINSLIE in 14th.
On the first downwind the left side paid, FLORENT extended his lead on the right, while AINSLIE moved up to fifth by the bottom mark, just behind NIRKKO, KURFELD and COOK. Most of the fleet went right up the second beat and FLORENT controlled his lead from this side. NIRKO split tacks to play the middle and lost some ground on COOK, while AINSLIE moved up to fourth.
On the final downwind, FLORENT looked under pressure as AINSLIE overtook COOK and then NIRKKO and started closing in on FLORENT. However FLORENT just had a large enough gap to take the win, followed about ten boatlengths behind by AINSLIE, COOK and NIRKKO.
Last year's European Champion, Eduard SKORNYAKOV (RUS) finally had a better race, placing tenth, after a poor start to the regatta. The overnight leader Gasper VINCEC (SLO) recovered from a poor first upwind to finish 13th.
All this week, Sailing Revolution will be on the water filming the action. On Wednesday they recorded the entirety of race 4 including AINSLIE's comeback from 14th to second place. This is available as a free download at www.sailrev.tv. After only one day of racing the site had already received more than 3,000 download requests.
Race 5 started almost immediately at 16:05 with the wind now slightly increased to 10-12 knots and followed a similar pattern. The right side paid again, with COOK sailing clear of the pack to lead round the first mark followed by FLORENT, Ismael BRUNO (FRA) and NIRKKO. Meanwhile AINSLIE had set himself another comeback challenge rounding the top mark in the early 30s.
The 'O' flag was raised for unlimited pumping allowing COOK to stretch out his lead. Also enjoying the downwind was POSTMA who moved up to fourth and AINSLIE who made the largest gain to about 16th. On the final upwind of the day, most of the fleet again favoured the right. COOK controlled from the front, playing the shifts on the final approach to the layline and keeping the clever FLORENT in his sights. However the danger was now coming from POSTMA who had moved up to second.
Round the top mark it was COOK, POSTMA, FLORENT, Zach RAILEY (USA) and NIRKKO. AINSLIE had moved up to 11th and was closing in on the bunch just behind the leaders. The wind had dropped slightly by now so flag 'R' went up to restrict the unlimited pumping.
COOK was now the one under pressure as both POSTMA and FLORENT started to close in. However by the finish the positions hadn't changed and COOK took a well deserved win followed by POSTMA, FLORENT, NIRKKO and RAILEY. AINSLIE continued his comeback tradition and finished eighth to keep his title chances alive, although he has been making hard work of it so far.
FLORENT said, "I was really happy about how I sailed today. In the first race I was very fast and I picked the right hand side of the course and managed to stay well ahead of the fleet and in control. I was extremely happy with the race committee's decision to wait on shore this morning. The course was good and the winds were steady and I am getting to know them now. This really is a great place to sail."
COOK agreed with FLORENT's thoughts but added, "For me it was a pretty difficult day. In fact if I had to sum it up I would say it was very stressful. I kept on putting myself in bad positions on the start line and had a tough time getting across all the bows, but finally managed to pull away. In the second race the free pumping was really fun and it was great to be able to stretch out."
After five races, FLORENT leads on eight points with COOK just one point behind him. AINSLIE is lying in third on 15 points.
In the Juniors, KURFELD had the best day with an excellent seventh in race 4 followed by a 27th in race 5. However Piotr KULA (POL) is still the leading Junior in 15th overall with KURFELD in 23rd and Tomas VIKA (CZE) in 36th.
Racing continues on Thursday at 12:00.
Results - click here