by Lindsey Bell
Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofia Mapfre third day, the halfway stage, provided light and shifty wind conditions. Ben Ainslie and the Star duo of Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson made the best of the conditions to top their fleets.
Skandia Team GBR - Ben Ainslie - Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofía Mapfre 2012
The triple Olympic Champion Ainslie increased his lead to 11 points at the top of the Finn class standings, while Beijing gold medallists Percy and Simpson improved their overnight position from third to first in the two-man Star keelboat event thanks to 12,3 from their two races today.
For both boats, this Princess Sofia Trophy in Palma – a regatta at which both are defending their 2011 titles – marks their first competitive outing since the World Championships in Perth last December.
Ainslie stamped his authority on the Finn fleet in Wednesday’s two races with a second and a first edging him further ahead of Sweden’s second-placed Daniel Birgmark and USA’s Beijing silver medallist Zach Railey in third, and admits he ‘couldn’t be happier’ to be back on the race course again after a testing winter during which he underwent back surgery.
'The body is holding together very well, but having said that it’s been pretty light winds so I wouldn’t have said it’s been the toughest physical test I’ve ever experience in my sailing career.
'But considering where I was two months ago, I couldn’t be happier to be here and to be racing and to be back on the programme, in tune and racing well. That’s a massive step for me and hopefully I can continue pushing forwards for the next four or five months.
'It was a very difficult day today,' said the 35-year-old of his day’s racing.
'The wind was quite light this morning and changing a lot so it was very hard to read and there were lots of ups and downs in the fleet but for me I had a good day. I managed to pick it just about right to be up with the top guys and I had some good speed so I’m pretty happy with the day.'
Ainslie’s Skandia Team GBR Finn squad stablemate Andrew Mills remains in sixth place overall.
Elsewhere, British sailors are currently poised in silver medal positions in four of the nine competing classes in Palma. Helena Lucas maintained her second place overall in the 2.4mR Paralympic class with Megan Pascoe currently in fourth after six races, while the 'Sailing Sophies' Weguelin and Ainsworth continued their Impressive form in the 470 Women’s event. They relinquished the overall lead to the French duo of Emmanuelle Rol and Helene Defrance, but are still counting all results inside the top ten to remain in the hunt at the midway point.
Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark had what they cited as a ‘chronic’ day, which started promisingly when they crossed the line sixth in race one, only to have been judged over the start line early, before compounding their frustration with a 37th from race two to end the day in 28th overall.
A steady day for John Pink and Rick Peacock improved their standing to second overall in the 49er fleet, with overnight leaders Dave Evans and Ed Powys just one point behind in third. Dylan Fletcher-Alain Sign and Stevie Morrison-Ben Rhodes will look to fight back when they head into gold fleet racing tomorrow, currently placed 22nd and 23rd overall.
Nick Thompson upgrades his red bib for a blue one for Thursday’s racing, having moved up from overall third to second in the Laser class with 7,4 from his races today, while Paul Goodison is in sixth place but just ten points from the top spot on an incredibly tight leaderboard.
The women’s match racing trio of Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor won three out of three of their gold group matches today, with two more to go on Thursday to determine their seeding for the knockout quarter-final stage.
Charlotte Dobson has improved to 14th overall in the Laser Radial event, with Alison Young in 28th, while Ben Saxton and Richard Mason are the top British boat in the 470 men’s event, in 20th overall, with Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell looking to bounce back from a disappointing first half of their week which sees them in 45th heading into gold fleet racing on Thursday.
Racing at the Palma World Cup regatta continues through until Saturday 7 April.
Skandia Team GBR website
Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofia Mapre website