The wind gods made an appearance as the battle intensified for podium positions with the F18 World Championship nearing its conclusion in Nigran, Spain.
Coen DE KONING
and Jeroen VAN LEEUWEN (NED) hit the top of the leaderboard after three 'golden' races and behind them their fellow Dutch sailors and the French teams continue to dominate the competition.
If on Wednesday the breeze was scarce, day four of racing in Nigran was the complete opposite, with three races for both 'gold' and 'silver' groups held under grey skies that threatened rain from early in the day, and provided a true display of the spectacular speed and prowess of some of the best catamaran sailors in the world.
The gold group headed out for the race course mid-morning with south-westerlies blowing 8-11 knots and swiftly rising as the fleet moved into the windward mark just in front of the Playa de Ladeira in Baiona. A favoured left under Monte Louredo gave those ashore a sight for sore eyes as the 66-strong fleet battled it out for solid positions at the top.
It was a fantastic day for Mitch BOOTH
and Pim NIEUWENHUIS
(NED), who made some absolutely beautiful starts for NED 1 at the Committee Boat end. BOOTH added further to his status as an F18 legend and was clearly in his element as the breeze continued to rise, peaking at 18-20 knots at the top mark. A first and two thirds has moved the two-time Olympic medallist and three-time F18 World Champion from 16th to fifth place on the leaderboard.
Close on his heels was young Dutch team of DE KONING and VAN LEEUWEN whose steady performance throughout the championship has moved them into a solid lead; two second places and an eighth gives them a 25-point advantage at the top.
Admittedly happier in stronger breeze the French duo of Jean-Christophe MOURNIAC
and Franck CITEAU had a disappointing first race but moved up and forwards, to grab a second place in the third race of the day and in the general classification overall.
Consistency is the name of the game, as proven by fellow Frenchmen Moana VAIREAUX
and Romain PETIT
, equally second with MOURNIAC and CITEAU on 48 points, with multihull magician Franck CAMMAS
and Jeremy LAGARRIGUE dropping to fourth.
As the cold front moved over and out of the Bay of Baiona, the sunshine briefly put in an appearance, enough to highlight two spectacular performances from British Olympic Tornado and X40 sailor Hugh STYLES
and Adam PIGGOTT
, whose two first places have moved them to sixth, just behind BOOTH and NIEUWENHUIS.
Tough competition indeed for speedy Dutch duo Mischa HEEMSKERK
and Bastiaan TENTIJ
who are now in ninth and will have some work on their hands tomorrow for the final day of the championship.
As the gold group retired, it was the turn of the second 'Silver' 66 classified who were to face the brutish reality of the Galician elements at their very best. It was clear from race one that the wind gods were back with a vengeance as gusts of up to 28 knots swept the course at times.
A true test of nerves, strength and control as conditions worsened and a number of capsized boats dotted the bay, including several casualties with broken masts and other material damage.
Solid performances from British team Martin CHADDER and Sam CHADDER, silver leaders, followed by SWE 49 sailors Fredrik KARLSSON and Gustaf NYBLAEUS and Dutch team Coert VAN DAM and Marius VAN DAM in third.
Results - click here