"It's looking pretty exciting," said Brazil's Star sailor Robert Scheidt, who with crew Bruno Prada has perhaps one of the most impressive sailing records here. (Together, they are two-time Olympic medalists and just off their second straight title win at the Star World Championships). "Some of the guys who have already got a spot in the Olympics are here and they are really sailing well."
No one has been proving that theory better than Sweden's Fredrik Loof and Max Salminen who yesterday trailed Scheidt and Prada by two points and are tied on points with the Brazilians after finishing 6-2 to their 3-7. With both teams posting 26 points, Norway's Eivind Melleby and Petter Morland Pedersen are nipping at their heels with only 29 points.
"Today we didn't have a great day," added Scheidt. "The first race was good because we were coming from behind, but the second race we wanted to start at the boat and got jammed there, so we had to start behind the pack and play catch-up the whole race. We managed to hold our lead, but there are still two races to go until the medal race."
As will happen at the Olympics, only the top-ten boats after tomorrow's racing will be allowed to progress to Saturday's single Medal Race, which will determine gold, silver and bronze medals.
"We just have to make one good race to get into the top ten, but our goal is to win the medal, so tomorrow is an important day," Scheidt said, explaining that cumulative points are carried into the medal round, which is counted twice in the final scoring, so there is no room for slacking off. "You cannot over think it (the Medal Race). You have to keep things simple and not tack too much, and try to be consistent and close to your rivals. Freddy is a very consistent guy; he's always at the top, and Eivind did really well at the Worlds in Perth, and now he's catching up again. He's sailing really fast."
As for Loof, he feels his team has been fighting for every point. "It has been hard work," he said. "It's tricky out there, and both sides are favored. When you try to get into the oscillation it doesn't work either. The French had the two bullets, and they came from the left almost all the time and had big gains. Tomorrow we're just going to keep working; we have a few things that we can improve, especially the downwind, and if we get that right, I think we'll have a little bullet ourselves."
For the New Zealand team of Hamish Pepper and Jim Turner, it isn't easy being green. Their borrowed green hull (while their new boat gets built) is a standout-especially at black-flagged starts--in a sea of 30 white Star boats, but they are holding up well despite that and the fact that "green" is also what Turner calls himself.
"It's a different challenge for sure," said Turner, who has never sailed a Star before and is best known for his campaign contributions to two America's Cups and a slew of TP52 races. "Everyone is really on top of their game here because of the Olympics." His skipper Pepper added that there are no other countrymen vying with them for a Star berth at the Olympics. "It's all learning and trying to first qualify our country in France (at Hyeres) and then proving to our country's selectors that we are worthy of going."
For the Paralympic sailors here, tomorrow will be the final day of racing (two races each scheduled for Skud-18, Sonar and 2.4mR classes) and determine who takes home medals. (This is the same format that will be followed at their Games.)
France'sDamien Seguin, who has been leading the 2.4mRs since Tuesday, won the first race of the day and finished eighth in the second, which he is using as his worst-finish discard. As such, he has a whopping 20-point lead over Canada's Paul Tingley.
"It was really difficult because I was in the middle of the fleet, so the guys on the right or the left were going ahead of me," said Seguin. "The competition is really high because the Paralympic Games are in sixth months, and we had the World Championship two weeks ago in Port Charlotte, USA. I love this regatta, since it is the first regatta of the year for me, and it's a sunny and windy place"
In Skud-18s, Dan Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch (AUS) are tied in point score with Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell (GBR) for first and second on the scoreboard, while in Sonars, Jourden Bruno, Vimont Vicary and Nicolas/ Flageul Eric (FRA) are only one point ahead of Udo Hessels, Marcel van de Veen and Mischa Rossen (NED).
In Women's Match Racing, Sally Barkow (USA) was the first to advance to the semi-finals after 24 teams, split into Groups A and B, completed their single elimination quarterfinal rounds.
Barkow and crew, who had only lost one match in the 11-race series that led up to the quarter-finals, lost no matches in their first-to-three-race quarter finals flight against Tamara Echegoyen (ESP). Similarly, no matches were lost by Australia's Olivia Price and Finland's Silja Lehtinen, and with all three teams secured with berths in the semifinals, all attention was turned to the last flight of the day between the USA's Anna Tunnicliffe and Great Britain's Lucy Macgregor. There could not have been a better match made in heaven, since both teams were medalists (USA gold, GBR silver) at the recent ISAF Worlds in Perth.
This time, it was Macgregor's team that toppled Tunnicliffe's, but only after the former trailed 2-0, then "stayed alive" by winning the third and fourth match to pull level, and then won the final race that was needed to decide who advanced.
"We didn't start out with a brilliant regatta," said Macgregor's crew Annie Lush after racing today. "We haven't been winning everything straight out, and we've also made a lot of mistakes, but it has been good to learn from, and it's really nice to get through the quarter-finals. It is always a massive sign of relief because it's such a big cut, and everyone racing in the quarters is good. Anna Tunnicliffe is the World Champion, and we met her in the quarters. It's a really tough stage and a relief to get through it."
An upset also occurred in the Laser class when Great Britain's Paul Goodison finally ousted Canadian David Wright from the coveted spot at the top of the scoreboard. Each had both a good and a bad race, the latter of which served as their allowed discard in a series that is eight races strong. Goodison, in similar fashion to many here, is the current Olympic Gold medalist and a past World, European and British Champion.
For more information on the ISAF Sailing World Cup click here.