Olympic Silver Medalists Johnny LOVELL (New Orleans) and Charlie OGLETREE (Houston, Texas) have taken the lead in their defense of the International Catamaran Challenge Trophy.
In the first-to-four point series, the two Tornado class veterans have taken a 3-1 lead against Enrique FIGUEROA and Jorge HERNANDEZ of Puerto Rico with one day left in the competition.
Yesterday's light and shifty northerly solidified enough to finish the final match of the Challenger Series between Mitch Booth and Herbert Dercksen of The Netherlands and the Puerto Ricans who were tied with three wins apiece after racing on Wednesday. Booth mastered the pre-start, built a lead which was challenged only once on the first run, but then on the final run to the finish let the speedy Puerto Ricans go to the opposite side of the course and cross them with only 50 metres to the finish.
Emboldened by what looked to be superior speed in the 6-8 knot conditions, Figueroa and Hernandez went on the win the first match in the Trophy Series against Lovell and Ogletree, with help from a 15-degree favorable shift on the first beat.
But as the breeze built to a more solid 8-9 knots, the match racing prowess of the Americans helped them at the top of the first beat, where they forced a penalty on the Puerto Ricans just a few lengths from the top mark. Using their superior downwind speed, Figueroa and Hernandez then managed to take a sizeable lead, but not big enough to allow for their penalty turn at the finish, where the Americans slipped by with only three seconds to spare.
In the third match, Figueroa and Hernandez rallied to take and hold on to a slim lead on the first two legs, but a bad covering tack on the second beat allowed Lovell and Ogletree to slip by, and win this match by only three seconds.
In the final match of the day, it was the American's turn to benefit from a big shift, where after a split start Lovell and Ogletree sailed to the right corner and a 15-degree right shift with more pressure. This vaulted them into a lead of 30 seconds at the windward mark, an eternity in the fast-paced world of catamaran match racing.
"Tomorrow we're going to focus more on using our speed to our advantage," said Figueroa. "We're new to match racing, so this will be our best strength."
Tomorrow's forecast for 10 knots will promise an exciting finale to the competition, with a large weekend spectator crowd expected on the Lake Pontchartrain venue within sight of the host Southern Yacht Club.