Australia has always been a strong multihull nation, dominating the Olympic Tornado class for many years without every winning a gold medal. Now there are two new kids on the block and they have one of the masters playing catch-up.
When the 10th and final race of the gold fleet was sailed today, a sixth placing by Jason Waterhouse and his cousin Lisa Darmanin was enough to elevate the pair to third overall going into tomorrow's double-points medal race. The gold is out of reach – Billy Besson and Marie Riou (FRA) have an incredible 32 point buffer – but the young Australians are just a single point behind Vittorio Bissaro and Silvia Sicouri (ITA).
“It was nice to move up today,” said Darmanin. “That was the goal and we did it.”
However, there is a log-jam behind them and even the old master, Darren Bundock and his crew Nina Curtis, have a chance at the medals from eighth place, 12 points behind second.
Waterhouse and Darmanin are five points clear of fourth place, so I asked Waterhouse what his tactics would be.
“We want to get the silver so we've got to keep an eye on them (the Italians) but we can't get too greedy. We've got to keep an eye on everyone else too.”
Bundock has won 14 world titles, including seven in the Tornado, and like Nina Curtis is also an Olympic silver medallist. They may be more experienced than their young team mates, but this time youth has the advantage.
The other two Australian crews in gold fleet failed to qualify for the medal race. Euan McNicol and Lucinda Whitty were 12th, 10 points shy, and Pip Pietromonaco and James Wierzbowski were 17th, 11 points further back.
A disastrous last place in the final 49er gold fleet race has dropped Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen to third overall behind Jonas Warrer and Anders Thomsen (DEN) but the gap is just two points, so the silver will go to whichever crew beats the other. The Portuguese are technically within striking distance but are unlikely to bridge the gap to the podium.
The gold has been well and truly won by defending champions Peter Burling and Blair Tuke of New Zealand, who are a massive 36 points clear despite a disqualification over their bingle in yesterday's Race 11.
David Gilmour and Rhys Mara are thrilled to have qualified for their first major medal race in ninth place.
After a difficult regatta which has seen the three Australian crews suffer from Black Flags, broken gear and “going swimming”, there was initially news that Tess Lloyd and Caitlin Elks had qualified for the medal race in 10th place. However, it transpired that they were tied in 10th and dropped to 11th on a countback.
Even so, the result will be a big boost for the likeable young pair, who always bounce back from adversity. It was only two years ago that Tess was in a coma for over two weeks after being hit by a windsurfer while sailing a 29er event in Queensland and although she still has some memory loss, she attacks her sailing with full vigour.
She had another set-back when she lost her original crew, Eliza Solly, to Olivia Price in a management-engineered reshuffle. However, she and Elks have gelled beautifully and while team spirit is always high in the AST, I am sure there will be some quiet satisfaction in beating Price and Solly, who finished 14th, five points behind Lloyd and Elks.
It was an up-and-down regatta for 2008 Olympic 470 champion Tessa Parkinson and her crew Chelsea Hall. But for an unscheduled swim when leading by about 200 metres in the second race of qualifying, they would have been leading the class at that stage. They managed a 2nd, two 3rds and a 7th to show they have real boat speed, but lack of competition practice meant there were too many scores in the high teens and low twenties to have a chance at the medal race. They finished 21st.
This will be an an interesting class for the selectors. Lloyd and Elks have qualified the country for the Olympics and there are two years for these three pairs and Haylee Outteridge, who is still finalising her crew, to stake their claim for the sought-after spot.
Unfortunately the Finn class spent another day bobbing around without completing a race, which deprived Jake Lilley and Oliver Tweddell a chance to sneak into the final 10.
Lilley finished 13th, just six points off 10th, and qualified an Australian boat for Rio. Tweddell was 23rd, but these two will push each other hard over the next two years and again the selectors may have a difficult task to select their Olympian.
All four medal races will be sailed tomorrow afternoon, Spanish time.
– Roger McMillan in Santander