For the first time in five days, the weather looked promising at the Santander ISAF World Championships. The wind was blowing strongly at 10am and the race committee's ambitious target of 64 races in one day looked less laughable than it did last night.
Sadly, it was not to be. The wind became too strong for the 49ers in particular, then faded and died. Combined with some more gross incompetence by the race committees (see Related Content) it meant that most fleets fell well short of their allotted schedule and the whole regatta is now facing either a huge day tomorrow or a reduced number of races.
Laser Medal Race
The Laser gold fleet spent all day on the water but managed just one race, after losing more than an hour of the best conditions while the start boat drifted off its anchor. Tomorrow's schedule hasn't been released but presumably they now go straight to the medal race, as per the original program.
This throws up a juicy scenario, especially for Australian and British supporters. Nick Thompson (GBR) was 3rd in today's race while Tom Burton (AUS) was 7th. Burton therefore takes just a two point lead into the medal race, meaning whichever one beats the other wins. If Thompson beats Burton by a single place in the double-points final, he will win as the medal race positions become the tie-breaker.
Thompson has won medals at three world championships but has never been on the top step of the podium. He finished second to Olympic champion Tom Slingsby on two occasions, and Burton has played second-fiddle to Slingsby in Australia for his entire senior career. Both will be glad the Central Coast sailor is now occupied with America's Cup duties and both will be keen to claim the vacant crown.
Nicholas Heiner of the Netherlands can't be discounted either. He is four points further behind and would just need to beat Thompson by two and put another boat between himself and Burton. It is hard to see the winner coming from outside these three.
The other Australians in gold fleet finished in a bunch, with Ashley Brunning 17th, Ryan Palk 18th and Luke Elliott 19th. Teenager Matthew Wearn won the final race and finished a creditable 28th.
In the other single-handed men's class, Australia had a reasonable day but the superstar was Britain's Giles Scott. With four wins from four races, the tall and likable Briton was actually dropping one of his bullets!
Jake Lilley has leap-frogged his Australian compatriot Oliver Tweddell. Despite a DNF in the second race, his other placings of 6,5,4 were enough to secure seventh overall going into the gold fleet.
“I pretty much broke everything I could break,” Lilley said. “A hiking strap was the first to go and when I broke the second one and lost the chocks overboard, I thought it was time to head in and get ready for the next race.”
Tweddell started the regatta brilliantly with a win in his first race yesterday and followed up with a 9th and a 7th before a 22nd, which became his drop. He lies in ninth place overall and said he was pretty satisfied with the day. Both are in good shape going into gold fleet and will look to maintain single-digit finishes to make the medal race top 10.
It was another up-and-down day for Olympic champions Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen. They finally got their first bullet of the regatta in the fifth race, but preceded it with a 19th which came about after a “rookie error” while leading, as Outteridge described it.
“We were gybing in waves and I put the bow through instead of over the wave,” he explained. “It's not ideal, but it's OK,” he said, describing their overall situation of fourth place.
The worst news for the Australians, however, was the consistency of defending world champions and Olympic silver medalists Peter Burling and Blair Tuke of New Zealand. They are putting together another exceptional scoreline, currently reading 1, 4, (6), 1, 4 to give them a massive 20 point lead over Outteridge and Jensen. If they went into the medal race in the same position, they would be unbeatable.
Race management was again the butt of criticism after sending the yellow fleet out in winds that greatly exceeded the class limit of 25 knots. There were 17 DNFs and a lot of sail damage, further unbalancing the mix between yellow and blue fleets.
They also sent blue fleet out late in the evening, finishing after 7.30pm with a win for David Gilmour and Rhys Mara (AUS).
Olympic gold medalist Mat Belcher was looking stressed and strained this morning after sitting in the protest room until 1am. The race committee did nothing to improve his demeanour, sending the crews out, failing to complete a race, sending them in, sending them out again and again failing to get any racing in.
It was a total shambles.
Only three races have been sailed in four days and the defending champions find themselves in 11th place despite winning their protest and receiving redress. The class is currently led by Stuart McNay and David Hughes of the USA who have two bullets and are dropping a 12th.
There was more chaos on the 49erFX course, where the women were also sent out in totally ridiculous conditions. Olympic 470 gold medallist Tessa Parkinson and crew Chelsea Hall broke their mast, but fortunately the race was abandoned and they were able to return to the boat park for a new one.
It has been a tough regatta for all three Australian crews however. Tess Lloyd and Caitlin Elks are the leading crew in 14th, while Parkinson and Hall are 21st and Olivia Price and Eliza Solly are 41st and carry a Black Flag disqualification as their drop.
There is still a long way to go in this class, with 13 races scheduled before the medal race on Sunday.
The wind blew perfectly for multihull racing for about three hours today. But the race committee sent the Laser silver fleet out instead.
I spoke with Darren Bundock and Nina Curtis on shore and they were exasperated beyond belief. “We've done one race in three days,” Nina pointed out. Right at that moment they were called out to the course, where the wind promptly died and no racing was possible.
Limited racing was possible in the Laser Radial, 470 women and RS:X classes. Full results are available here.
Hopefully the medal race in the Laser will provide a high point for a regatta that badly needs some good news.
– Roger McMillan in Santander