The Azores high having made a short disappearance from the area to be replaced by a depression meant for a big day today at the ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships in Madeira. So much so that the majority of the fleets could only manage one race.
The breeze wasn't enough to stop a World Champion being decided on the penultimate day of the championship, the young Zofia KLEPACKA from Poland staking her claim on the girl's sailboard discipline, with an impeccable display of technique in the tricky, breezy conditions.
By the time we were on the water, having been invited onto the marina owner's spectacular powerboat, the first of the 420 and Laser fleet were already seeking solace from the Atlantic battering they had experienced in the first race, respective race officer's having taken the wise decision to postpone the second race of the day in those fleets.
Impressive was the ability of the majority of the fleet to cope with what turned into survival conditions on the two western courses. To continue racing with determination and competitive spirit gives every competitor here maximum credit. A few classic wipeouts kept the spectator boats cheering and TV helicopters in footage.
No real injuries, and no serious breakages (although there were a couple of ice packs going round the dinghy park this afternoon) and a tired World Championsip fleet are ready for the final day of this year's pinnacle youth event tomorrow.
Boys Double-handed - 420
The Australians relished it once again today, a powerful start, and almost impeccable heavy weather sailing and they had race eleven in the bag. Now leading by 19 points and with an eleventh as a worst discard, if there is only one race tomorrow then they have, to all intents and purposes, got it "totally" in the bag so to speak. Currently pushing Australia's top 470 sailors in the biggest class, Nathan OUTTERIDGE and Ayden MENZIES have really proved their mettle so far here in Madeira.
Another pair who love the big wind are Jaro FURLANI and Daniel PICULIN (ITA), but a slip in form in the earlier part of the week has left them a little back in the pack, currently in eighth position. Today's second place result was their best of the series so far.
Another Singapore story, though not the girls this time, and Yuan XU & Jia TAN, took inspiration from their team mates' performance over the last few days to finish third in today's race, just ahead of the British pair, Callum MACDONALD and Haakon CARLSEN. That represented renewed British interest in the stronger conditions, with all of them finishing in the top five in the dinghy fleets.
Girls Double-handed - 420
There are still a few permutations that can lead to different medal colours being presented to different people than today's results show. Without being a mathematical genius it's tough to work them out but suffice to say, Elise Rechichi and Raychele Martin (AUS) are currently five points ahead of the French pair of Camille LECOINTRE and Gwendolyn LEMAITRE, and the Australian's worst discard is a 20.
The French won today's race, putting pressure on the first place competitors and showing them a warning if the breeze is going to be as strong tomorrow. Third place in today's racing went to Alison MARTIN and Bethan CARDEN (GBR), pushing them to within two points of Team Singapore in third place. They unfortunately didn't get their top three finish, but still have a day to defend their bronze medal.
Boys Single-handed - Laser
An epic day for the Laser boys, epitomised by the sheer hard work and effort put in by the young Croatian sailor Norbert WILANDT, who along with team mate Gea BARBIC in the Laser Radial, are showing that it's not just the Brits who like the breeze. Leading from start to finish, he stamped his authority on the fleet with a phenomenal display of confidence and power on the downwind legs.
At the first downwind mark in the Laser fleet, Wilandt led by a short distance from Luke JUDGE (NZL), with a small pack of determined followers including GBR, ESP and current fleet leader, Ricky IRONMONGER (AUS). Showing he really didn't want to be beaten, Ironmonger had pulled up to second place by the next leeward mark, and went on to finish there, keeping his first place overall. Stephen POWELL (GBR) pulled into third place, his second best result in the regatta, and Judge finished fourth.
Gratefully the fleet headed back to the safety of the marina, glad that their legs were to be spared another race.
Girls Single-handed - Laser Radial
A heavily starboard biased start line, and a big bunch at that end on the start line gave rise to an unfortunate capsize on the line, the problem being that once the sailors bear away for the start and hike out, hiking space to windward is quickly replaced by someone else's leeward side deck. Against the rules and not easy to cope with in 25 knots of breeze.
A good start was made by the ISAF Athlete Participation Programme funded Gea BARBIC (CRO) slightly down the line and, like her team mate, she went on to take full advantage of the windy conditions to her liking, and nailed a first place finish, reiterating her third place overall, currently better than her last Youth Worlds finish of fourth in France in 2001.
But the real battle is just in front of her in the overall standings. Krystal WIER (AUS), third at the first leeward mark but right on second placed Cecilia CARRANZA (ARG), managed to pull up a place and finish second in the demanding conditions. More importantly, she put the Argentine sailor between herself and the overall leader going into the race Paige RAILEY (USA), who finished fourth.
This means the rivals are on equal points at the top of the leaderboard, Paige only ahead on countback. A situation sure to provide some Ainslie/Sheidt style final race antics!
Sailboard - Mistral
It's been a similar tit-for-tat battle at the top of the boys sailboard fleet between Mariano BENITEZ (ARG) and Wing YU (HKG). Yu currently leads by a single point over the Argentinean, leaving it all to play for going into the final race tomorrow. BIRON Kokalanis (GRE) with a classic third and first in the two windiest races of the regatta, is in third place overall.
The girls world champion has been decided. Poland's Zofia KLEPACA sailed an almost flawless regatta, coming out strong early to give herself leeway towards the closing stages of the regatta. In her own words she was, "Relaxed and sailed just for fun"
towards the end of the regatta, and now takes the title, and the trophy, back to Poland, ready to defend in her home town of Gdansk at next year's championship.
Blanca MANCHON (ESP), after a difficult start to the championship, has steadily improved and despite having to count an OCS, now lies in third position after a first and second today pushed her up into a position to challenge Flavia TARTAGLINI (ITA) for the silver medal spot. A position she most probably had difficulty seeing after the first day's racing.
Tomorrow will see not only the other five World Youth Champions decided, but also the presentation of the Nation's Cup for 2003. Going into today's racing it was closer than many expected - let's see what tomorrow brings.