The weather forecast for the second half of Skandia Sail for Gold has been a hot topic of conversation for a while, and today it started to happen.
The wind pick-up in the morning, and by the afternoon it was a challenging 20 knots and change for most race courses. Once again, the stamina of the athletes was tested to the limit - and it's just going to get windier.
The RS:X Men raced in the morning in the more moderate conditions, and it's still all about the one-two double act from the last world championships, Julien Bontemps and Nick Dempsey. Bontemps had another steady day with a third and a fourth to hold onto his lead, while Dempsey used up his discard with a 13th in race five, but then won the second race of the day. The gap between them is now seven points - it was only two at the end of the World Championships - racing between the pair is very tight. Threatening to split up the dynamic duo was Dorian van Rijsselberge, only one point behind Dempsey.
The British sailor explained, "I had a really difficult first race today, it was the first time we had sailed in the bay in a little while. I was pretty sure that the left was going to be quite favoured but the problem was that I lost my lane and I had to tack out so the separation was massive. The course was big which meant the separation was big, so I was caught out today - it didn't do what I thought it was going to do which is unfortunate."
In the RS:X Women it was another extraordinary day for Poland's Zofia Noceti-Klepacka - with two first places to add to her tally - making four wins and two seconds. Noceti-Klepacka is now discarding a second place and has a significant jump on her long-term rivals. Trailing her by 13 points in second place is Spain's Marina Alabau, with Lee Korzits of Israel in third, another eight points behind.
Zofia Noceti-Klepacka's enthusiasm is perhaps one of the reasons she is doing so well. "I am training really hard and I have some really good training partners who include a world champion and I am really seeing the results from this. I will continue to train hard in the hope that at the Olympic Games I do well. I love Weymouth, the conditions are great, the wind is great so I sail slalom for fun in the evenings! I really like the people here, it is like Poland."
The Paralympic course got a full day of racing in, and it was another blistering performance from the British Skud pair of Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell. They followed up yesterday's hat-trick of race wins with another brace of bullets today to scorch into a five point overall lead from the Qingdao bronze medallists, John McRoberts and Stacie Louttit. Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch hold third another three points behind.
Alexandra Rickham said, "We have had a string of silvers at this regatta, which has always been tough to take, but we are sailing consistently at the moment. Today was really hard for everybody, it was probably the toughest conditions for us in terms of the crew and helm. It was gusting anything from 23-26 knots and Niki had to think pretty hard because the wind was shifting all over the place."
The Sonar's matched them with another two races and it was another British team on top - John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas scored a second and a third. Combined with the discard coming into play and allowing them to drop their 12th place, they passed Dutch overnight leaders Udo Hessels, Mischa Rossen and Marcel ven de Veen. There are only a couple of points in it though, with Canadians, Bruce Millar, Logan Campbell and Scott Lutes in third, seven points adrift of the Dutch.
Hannah Stodel spoke for the British crew. "It was a good day out there; it was massively shifty though; so it was anybody's game. We got a little bit of luck when we wanted it and we sailed pretty well actually, so we did deserve it. Monday was just… one of those days when we couldn't do anything right but that is over now and we are improving. We have picked ourselves up and dusted ourselves off!"
Almost completing a British hat-trick in the Paralympic classes was Helena Lucas. After scoring a third and a fifth today and discarding a 17th from the first race, Lucas pulled up to tie level with the Netherlands Thierry Schmitter, who has an edge in the tie-break thanks to a first place. Schmitter only managed a sixth and an eighth, discarding the latter, and commented, "I didn't do as well today, it was a very hard wind to sail in and I had a few difficulties which meant I was unable to keep an overview of the fleet and lost a little bit of control… It's not so easy when there are four or five guys leading at the top, I sailed my discard today so I can't make any more mistakes in this regatta, it's getting tougher and tougher but we knew that before we started."
In the 49ers, the three-time Skandia Sail for Gold champions, Australia's Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen took control of the fleet after overnight leaders, Dave Evans and Ed Powys (GBR) had a poor day by their standards this week with a 10th and a 13th. Outteridge and Jensen scored two firsts and a fourth to climb into pole, now chased by the French team of Emmanuel Dyen and Stephane Christidis six points behind them. But making really good progress up the leaderboard with a first and two seconds were the British Olympic representatives, Steve Morrison and Ben Rhodes - now fourth.
Nathan Outteridge commented, "Today was a good day, we had a fourth and two firsts. We always worry about Stevie (Morrison) and Ben (Rhodes) they are slowly creeping their way back up the leader board. They have a won a medal the last two times we have raced, so we would never count them out."
Steve Morrison said, "We had a good day today. It was in the harbour so we had some gusty, shifty winds then it got steadier and the sun's come out so it's turned into a really nice day. This home event is a learning process. We feel like we've been sailing pretty well. We've sailed very consistently and none of the results we've got have been down to luck. They've all been solid, fought-out wins."
It was still Australia's day in the Lasers, with Tom Burton scoring a first and a ninth (which he discarded) to hold his overall lead. But countryman Tom Slingsby dropped from second after posting a sixth and a seventh. Burton commented, "I have been doing a lot of training with Tom (Slingsby), as he is our representative for the Olympics. I'm sure he doesn't mind that I'm beating him, but it is pretty good to get one on him!"
Also taking advantage of Slingsby's unusually average day were German Phillip Buhl, up into second and Sweden's Rasmus Myrgren, now third. But it's desperately tight after Burton; with Buhl, Myrgren, Slingsby and then Croatian Tonci Stipanovic separated by just a single point.
But right now, the Laser Radials are the toughest contest at Skandia Sail for Gold - Evi van Acker led overnight, but only just and now it's even tighter. A second and a ninth saw her slide to third, overtaken by Marit Bouwmeester of the Netherlands and Lijia Xu of China, who posted a first and a fifth. But with Sari Multala (FIN), Alison Young (GBR) and Gintare Scheidt (LTU) also having a good day, the result is that the top six are now separated by just two points.
The Women's Match Racing completed their initial round robin, and the top six went through to the Gold Group, skippers; Lucy MacGregor (GBR), Claire Leroy (FRA), Olivia Price (AUS), Ekaterina Skudina (RUS), Silja Lehtinen (FIN) and finally, Anna Tunnicliffe (USA) pulling it out of the bag to take the last place. The Repechage Round got underway with first blood going to Renee Groeneveld, Stephanie Hazard and Tamara Echegoyen - all with three wins each. They will complete the round in the morning. The Gold Group also started racing and Ekaterina Skudina put her nose in front with three early wins - again, the Group will complete their racing in the morning.
The Stars saw a fabulous return to world class form for Iain Percy and Andrew 'Bart' Simpson. They scored a first and a second to move to the overall lead, with just a one point advantage from long-term Brazilian rivals, Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada. Dropping to third and two points behind were the Irish pair of Peter O'Leary and David Burrows, with Richard Clarke and Tyler Bjorn from Canada just another point behind the Irish.
Ian Percy was cheerful, "A much better day today, found a lot more speed upwind and we are still working on our downwind, so managed to get a two and a one. Half way through the regatta and it all starts again with any number of boats still in the medals."
The Finn class saw another dominant performance from Giles Scott, but today it was almost matched by Ben Ainslie. Scott won the first race, with Ainslie digging himself back from a poor first beat to score a third. Then Ainslie blew past Scott to win the last race, leaving him to score a second. USA Olympic representative Zach Railey is third, ten points adrift of Ainslie.
The 470 Men's class saw a rare sight, the dominance of Australians Matt Belcher and Malcolm Page over-turned - worse, it was by trans-Tasman rivals Paul Snow-Hansen and Jason Saunders. The Kiwis delivered two first places compared to Belcher and Page's first and a third. The discards also kicked in today, and when the New Zealanders dropped their ninth they went to the top of the fleet. In third place are the British Olympic representatives, Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell.
The 470 Women also saw the overnight lead overturned - and again it was the reigning World Champions that got pushed out of first place. The British pair of Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark had a poor day by their standards, with a 13th and a 14th. It dropped them to third behind the French pair of Camille Lecointre and Mathilde Geron, who scored a seventh and a second to maintain their five point advantage over the New Zealanders Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie, who had an equally good day with an eighth and a first.
For full results go to the website: www.skandiasailforgoldregatta.co.uk