England's Iain Percy and France's Xavier Rohart thrived in the best winds of the week and survived some tough justice in the third race of the 81st Nautica 2002 Star Class World Championship Tuesday to put themselves in rare positions.
They could become the first of their nationalities to claim the world's most prestigious one-design sailing crown.
In fact, it's any country's regatta at the halfway point. Five of the top six fly different flags, led by Brazil's Torben Grael, followed by Rohart, San Francisco's Paul Cayard, Percy, San Diego's George Szabo and Ireland's Mark Mansfield. They have separated themselves slightly from the other 100 boats, although that picture could change when some established stars who are struggling discard their worst scores after the fifth, next-to-last race Thursday.
Tuesday brought the strongest winds of the week, as much as 15 knots at the end of the 10-½ mile race, and Percy and Rohart loved it.
"Conditions were more to our liking," Percy's happy crew, Steve Mitchell, said. "None of this bloody American stuff we had earlier."
He was smiling broadly when he said it because, Percy added, "We've always had good results in strong winds. When we got clear we were able to pull out. The windier the better. It's much more fun."
They finished 1 minute 44 seconds ahead of Rohart, who was 1:18 ahead of Brazil's Alan Adler, who had a hard-luck story to e-mail home.
The 1989 champion had to surrender his second consecutive third-place finish because he was among those who jumped the starting line in the third general recall of the day when a 20 percent penalty was in force. Adler and everyone else got off cleanly on the fourth try, but he still paid the price for his preceding indiscretion, which meant 21 points tacked onto his score.
The race committee showed no favoritism. Similar fates befell '99 champion Eric Doyle of San Diego and Riccardo Simoneschi of Italy, who is only the Star class president.
Cayard and Grael followed Adler across the finish line. Along with Rohart, they are the only three competitors with all single-digit finishes.
Following another morning mist, the hard-chined little boats were surfing in the heavy chop under sunny skies.
Rohart echoed the sentiments of Percy and Mitchell about liking strong wind. "Of course," he said as his wife and three children greeted him dockside. "In the Mediterranean we have everything, but we do better when it blows."
However, the early forecast for Wednesday called for westerlies of only 8 knots at race time.
1 Grael, Torben / Ferreira, Marcelo 45 BRA 8109 Guanabara Bay 3 1 5 9 pts
2 Rohart, Xavier / Adde, Yannick 86 FRA 8107 Nice 6 8 2 16 pts
3 Cayard, Paul / Haenel, Hal 22 USA 8088 West San Francisco Bay 7 9 4 20 pts
4 Percy, Iain / Mitchell, Steven 80 GBR 8025 Isolated 19 4 1 24 pts
5 Szabo, George / Sperry, Austin A2 USA 7631 San Diego Bay 1 20 10 31 pts
6 Mansfield, Mark / Collins, Killian 68 IRL 8110 Isolated 2 13 18 33 pts
7 Adler, Alan / Ermel, Ricardo 02 BRA 8034 Rio de Janerio 26 3 24 ZFP 53 pts
8 Bermudez, Roberto / Menrrique, Domingo 10 ESP 7581 Barcelona 27 11 20 58 pts
9 Presti, Philippe / Saliou, Jean Philippe 82 FRA 7879 Flotte de Savoie 9 17 35 61 pts
10 Brady, Gavin / Keenan, Rodney 11 NZL 8065 Isolated 11 12 42 65 pts