Germany's Christoph Homeier hold a one-point lead over defending champion Italy's Andrea Bonezzi with home hope Jono Neate of Australia also in the running as the 40th Contender World Championship reaches crunch time in Brisbane.
Current Contender World Champion Italy's Andrea Bonezzi hopes of winning his eighth World title yesterday came under siege from Australia's Jono Neate and the question on everyone's lips today was 'can Neate do it again?'
Competitors left the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron this afternoon on a day straight out of the Contender brochure - 10 to 15 knots of breeze under brilliant blue skies. The fleet headed for the Northern Course, located towards the tip of Green Island.
Race seven was a clear start. Defending Champion Andrea Bonezzi (ITA) was third from the pin, slightly back from a cloud of Contenders.
When the fleet eventually tacked, Bonezzi seemed to be controlling Jono Neate (AUS) but at the top mark Neate rounded first as he had done in the two races yesterday. Behind Neate came Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron local Phillip Evans (AUS) with fellow RQ sailor Geoff Fisher (AUS) third.
At the wing mark Christoph Homeier (GER) had come into the picture while Bonezzi was buried back in eighth.
With the series leader Neate clear ahead at the end of the second reach, the group behind him went the other way. They were never going to catch Neate by following him up the centre of the course. Instead they went hard left.
By the top mark Simon Mussell (GBR) had sailed into second place ahead of Evans. Bonezzi had clawed his way back to fourth place with Fisher about to be overtaken by Homeier.
At the bottom mark for the last time it was Neate - then day light, then Mussell and Homeier, who had a good run, then Bonezzi and Gary Langdon (GBR).
Neate crossed the finish line first and said, "I started at the pin again. I crossed the fleet. It worked yesterday, so I thought I'd do it again."
British sailor Simon Mussell was pleased with his second place. He started just above Neate as did Homeier who looked like he just pipped Bonezzi at the finish.
The wind was at 105 and the course more east at the start of race eight.
Neate chose the pin end again and came in from course side at the last minute. Three up from Neate was Mussell, another three up to Homeier with Bonezzi about 15 up the line.
Again Neate crossed the first half of the fleet and for a few minutes it seemed that Neate could win again and that would have been the Championship decider.
But he fell down in the pack trying to cover Bonezzi and Mussell who was close by and worked the shifts better to round the mark first with Chris Peile (AUS) showing up at the party for the first time in this regatta to be second round. Homier was third, but surprisingly Neate was back in the pack.
At the top mark with one lap to go, the course was changed to 090 and in what may have been a World Championship piece of action, Bonezzi came hurtling in on port tack and just managed to get powered up again to hold out Mussell and a group that included Homeier.
Determination was etched on the seven times World Champion's face. Bonezzi vowed he would be more aggressive today and he certainly was. Neate was back in sixth.
At the bottom mark for the last time as they worked the beat, Homeier had overtaken Bonezzi with Steven Grimes (AUS) just ahead of Mussell and Chris Peile (AUS).
The little trapeze dinghies scattered, right across the course. There were some big gambles on the final beat but in the end the winners came in from the right.
It was Grimes by half a boat length from Homeier and Bonezzi. Neate was seventh.
The World Championship is now at a very interesting stage, with Homeier on 18 points, Bonezzi on 19 and Neate on 21. There was agreement from the three leaders as they shook hands in the boat park in the late afternoon light.
Yes it is tight at the top and yes tomorrow will be a very big day.
Bonezzi was first to throw down the challenge. "I am sick of just being consistent. My worst race of the eight so far is a fifth. Now I am keen to win again.
"It is very interesting, that is for sure. If there is more breeze, I think I have the edge over Christoph [Homeier] and Jonno [Neate] but if it stays light, it could be anyone's World Championship."
Neate had a sense of what might have been. "The first race was excellent but I was probably too greedy in the last. I started in the same place, I wanted to cover Andrea and I footed down, when I probably should have stayed high. Then on the last work, I went the wrong way."
Just leading by a point Homeier was smiling. "If there was no wind tomorrow at all, I would not mind. Are there any more cyclones around?"
Results - click here