Russians on cusp of making the finals at Louis Vuitton Trophy in Nice

Synergy skipper Karol Jablonski and tactician Rod Dawson were wearing huge smiles dockside and expressing their pleasure over a job well done when Philippe Mourniac from All4One approached.

“Great job, guys. It was awesome to watch on TV,” said Mourniac, the Franco-German team's navigator.

Synergy had recently completed a wire-to-wire win over TeamOrigin, restructuring the order at the Louis Vuitton Trophy Nice Côte d'Azur as perestroika revamped Russian politics in the 1980s.

Synergy today won two races and now occupies fourth place on the leaderboard with a 5-4 record, 1 point behind third-placed Azzurra. Synergy has two matches remaining in Round 2 and a victory in at least one would ensure advancement to the semi-finals.

“That would be an accomplishment. But we still have to win it,” said Jablonski, the 47-year-old skipper from Poland. “Today we had a good day and we're happy with our performance in this event. Before the start, who would've counted on us going forward?”

The semi-finalists took shape today with Emirates Team New Zealand wrapping up the round robins. Kiwi skipper Dean Barker came out victorious over BMW Oracle Racing and TFS – PagesJaunes and leads the event with a 9-1 record.

England's TeamOrigin holds second at 7-3. Italy's Azzurra didn't race today but remains in third place at 6-3. Synergy is fourth followed by Artemis at 4-5. BMW Oracle Racing is sixth (3-6), All4One seventh (3-7) and TFS – PagesJaunes eighth (1-9).

“The big deal for us is getting into the top four, and I think we're comfortable,” said Ben Ainslie, TeamOrigin skipper. “It's about getting better and trying to get results in the semi-final sail-offs. All the teams are battling a bit with the conditions and boats and trying to get used to it all. Like everyone else, we're trying to get better.”

If a few breaks had fallen differently in Round 1, Synergy might be placed even higher. The team lost a heartbreaker to Emirates Team New Zealand just five lengths from the finish line. It lost another match that it led when the mainsheet broke. Despite the setbacks, the learning curve has remained vertical.

“The important thing for our team is the atmosphere,” Jablonski said. “We went through a difficult time at the beginning. If something goes wrong there are a lot of possibilities for the team to explode or not be happy, but we are holding together. We have good attitudes.”

That attitude was evident when Synergy took down TeamOrigin. Jablonski started to the right of Ainslie, won the first cross on the right side of the course, and opened a lead at the first windward mark that wouldn't be overcome on the short, two-lap course.

“Both sides wanted the right, but we didn't want it with a bad start,” Ainslie said. “I thought we were in position to make their start tough, but they did a good job squeezing around the committee boat.

“It's good to see those guys doing so well,” Ainslie continued. “They've got some great sailors. It's good to see that when they get the boat handling side figured out they've got some smart sailors who know what a wind shift is and can figure it out.”

Three flights remain to complete the second round robin over the next two days. And although the semi-finalists are taking shape, the day still belonged to Synergy, even if they have to scream at each other.

“We don't have a communications system on board, so we have to talk loud to make sure everyone's on the same page,” Jablonski said. “The communication with the guy up the rig is difficult because he has to scream. But it doesn't matter. It's in Russian half the time so no one else can understand!”


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