With a bright red Prada stripe across his main sail Torben Grael is easy to spot.
The 1990 world champions and 1996 Olympic gold medallists---Grael also has two Olympic bronze medals---followed Sunday's opening third place with an 11-second victory over Bermuda's Peter Bromby/Martin Siese Monday. They stand 10 points in front of France's Xavier Rohart/Yannick Adde, who are second with a quiet 6-8 line, followed by Ireland's Mark Mansfield/Killian Collins (2-13) and San Francisco's Paul Cayard/Hal Haenel (7-9).
Weather conditions on Santa Monica Bay stabilized under sunny skies that brought steady breezes of 8 ½ to 10 ½ knots that had crews hanging off the windward side to keep the little keel boats flat for maximum speed.
"This was the first time all week we've had a good hike," Bromby said. "Today was a better race in terms of conditions. Consequently, the cream came back to the top."
Indeed, the results did seem to follow form. Among the first five finishers Monday, three---Grael, third-place Alan Adler, also of Brazil, and fifth-place Mark Reynolds---are former champions, while Bromby is ranked No. 4 in the class and fourth-place Iain Percy of the UK is 17th. Mansfield is No. 2 and Rohart No. 10.
Sunday's winners, San Diego's No. 8-ranked George Szabo and crew Austin Sperry, finished 20th Monday and stand fifth overall.
Four races remain through Friday. With five races in the book, everybody will discard their worst scores---good news for Reynolds, who can toss Sunday's 78th place and be back in the hunt, barring further disasters.
With the fleet packed like ducklings around the middle committee boat on the 1,000-meter-long line, there were two general recalls Monday before the fleet got away on the third try. Although normally some boats would play the ends of the line, the fact that the middle committee boat was
deliberately positioned ahead of the ends was irresistible to most.
Grael said, "We had a good start and went right."
The right side, he explained with a smile, was good "just because the left was good before."
Reynolds led at the windward mark, with Adler on his hip and Grael three boat lengths back. Grael worked into the lead at the next windward rounding and led a tight four-boat pack downwind, where he opted for the right-hand pylon at the gate.
"It opens more options for tactics," he said. "You don't have to go behind anybody."
But Bromby took the left side, picked up successive shifts and came from fifth place past everyone except Grael. Near the finish, Grael tacked three times to cover Bromby and protect his shrinking lead.
"[Bromby] went left on the second half of the beat and that was a pretty good move," Grael said.
Grael, a member of Prada's America's Cup afterguard, has sailed only four events this year, three in Brazil and another with 70 boats at Viareggio, Italy, but Adler said his countryman hasn't lost his touch.
"We'd come in first and second but normally he'd beat us," Adler said.
Grael's brother Lars Schmidt Grael is in 18th place. Adler left the class to sail Solings in 1996 and returned to Stars only last year. Clearly, the boys from Brazil are back.
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The leaders (after 2 of 6 races):
1. Torben Grael/Marcelo Ferreira, Brazil, (3-1) 4 points.
2. Xavier Rohart/Yannick Adde, France, (6-8) 14.
3. Mark Mansfield/Killean Collins, Ireland, (2-13) 15.
4. Paul Cayard/Hal Haenel, San Francisco, (7-9) 16.
5. George Szabo/Austin Sperry, San Diego, (1-20) 21.
6. Iain Percy/Steven Mitchell, UK, (19-4), 23.
7. Gavin Brady/Rodney Keenan, New Zealand, (11-12) 23.
8. Philippe Presti/Jean Philippe Saliou, France (9-17) 26.
9. Alan Adler/Ricardo Ermel, Brazil, (26-3), 29.
10. Paul-Ambroise Sevestre/Vincent Berenguier, France, (4-27), 31.