On the Paralympic race course north of the Newport Bridge, in puffy breeze that ranged from 5 knots to teen-strength, new leaders emerged in the 2.4 Metre and Sonar classes.
Mark LEBLANC now leads the 2.4 Metre class, and only two points separate the top three boats - with Mark BRYANT in second and John RUF in third. The fact that RUF sailed a 2,1,1 score in the day's three races and launched himself within striking distance of the lead can't make those close to him on the leaderboard feel too comfortable.
The lead in the Sonar class has once again been overturned, and Rick DOERR and his crew of Tim ANGLE, and Bill DONOHUE have recaptured the first-place slot. The team of Paul CALLAHAN, Roger CLEWORTH, and Tom BROWN stand only three points behind.
On the Laser and Laser Radial course, the rich are not getting richer. In both classes, the top two boats are distancing themselves from the rest of the fleet, but the points spreads between first and second places mirror the exact same spread these singlehanded racers sailed to the starting line with this morning.
In the Laser class, Brad FUNK remains three points ahead of second-place Andrew CAMPBELL; third-place Trevor MOORE is 32 points behind CAMPBELL. In the Laser Radial class, five points still separate leader world #1 Anna TUNNICLIFFE and second-place Paige RAILEY; third-place Sarah LIHAN is 11 points behind RAILEY.
For sailors not standing 1,2 in these two singlehanded classes, reality is setting in. But for the boats at the front of the class, there are still three days of racing and six races: the door to opportunity - to both rise and fall - is still wide open.
After racing on Thursday, RAILEY surveyed her chances: five points behind with six races left is not an insurmountable amount of ground to make up. On the day, RAILEY and TUNNICLIFFE were dead-even on points, with RAILEY's 1,3 finishes mirroring TUNNICLIFFE's 3,1. LIHAN matched them both in points, with a 2,2 day for four points.
What has frustrated RAILEY in this series are the costly points she gained in races where she once held the lead, but slipped back to a second- or third-place slot (a third place being her worst race to date). But Friday's forecast is for bigger breeze, and those are the conditions RAILEY likes best: "full-hike and shifty," as she describes it. Her strategy for the back end of this regatta is simple: "I'm just going for it, in every race … I have to keep pushing."
There is one team racing these East Coast Trials that no longer needs to put the pedal down for every race. Paralympic sailors Nick SCANDONE and Maureen MCKINNON-TUCKER have the largest leading margin in the entire fleet: a solid ten points over second place in the SKUD18 class. Their job in the back end of this regatta is quite different.
"In the beginning of the regatta, we wanted a good start and we wanted to win races," said SCANDONE. "But now, we don't have to win every race - but we do have to keep an eye on our competition."
Karen MITCHELL and JP CREIGNOU, and Scott WHITMAN and Julia DORSETT are the teams SCANDONE and MCKINNON-TUCKER need to watch. They stand second and third respectively, but only one point apart from each other in the standings.
For complete information on the US Olympic and Paralympic Team Trials - Sailing, please visit www.ussailing.org/olympics/OlympicTrials. Video from the event with commentary by Gary JOBSON will be available daily on the website of the NBC network at www.NBCOlympics.com.