Olympic champion Ben Ainslie (GBR) dominated proceedings again on the final day of the gold and silver fleet races at the Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofia in Palma with a 1, 5 score to go into Saturday's medal race with a 14 point lead over Giles Scott (GBR).
Third placed Thomas Le Breton (FRA), who won race 10, can now only challenge for silver from Scott, while fourth placed Dan Slater (NZL) is the only other sailor in with a chance of the bronze medal.
The final day for the gold and silver fleets started with another, albeit shorter, postponement to allow time for the sea breeze to kick in. When it arrived the fleet got away just after 12.30 in an 8-10 knot southerly, which increased during the day.
Ben Ainslie (GBR) added to his string of race wins with yet another bullet in race nine, his sixth of the series, this time from Dan Slater (NZL) and Jonathan Lobert (FRA), who has been struggling so far in this regatta. The third place gave Lobert a welcome boost up the results, but he had left it too late to make the medal race. The fleet was so tight that most of it crossed the finish line in one big group. A group of about 30 boats, were within 50 metres of each other at the finish, incredibly close after an hour of tough racing.
Race ten race started under Oscar flag for free pumping downwind in around 12 knots, with the waves getting slightly bigger. Third placed Piotr Kula (POL) tells his story. 'After a good start I went to the right side of a fleet and it was looking good so I stayed there on the first upwind. After rounding the windward mark in eighth I was working at full strength on the downwind. With the free pumping everyone was making an enormous effort to speed up. After the downwind I was third. Giles Scott was pushing right behind for the next lap.'
Thomas Le Breton maintained his lead at the second top mark from Johan Tillander (SWE), Kula and Scott. 'We worked really hard downwind and after a while we gained so much, that it became clear that we were fighting only against each other for third place. Giles is a really fast sailor so it was a hard battle but fortunately I managed to keep my spot and crossed the line in third.'
'I am very happy with the race as well as the whole regatta. I finished 19th overall which is really satisfying especially that after my knee surgery in October last year, I was not able to sail for five months. Despite all my ambition I did not think I would manage to do this well without training all winter.'
Fourth overall, Slater commented, 'Over the last two days I have managed to improve my position in the top five. I have had good top mark roundings in all races and on a few occasions even gained downwind which has been a bit of a new development, however there is still some work to do on this so that I am able to keep up with the British sailors. Going into the medal race I can't lose my fourth place. I have a chance at a bronze but really we will have to have all the stars fall into place and all I can do is sail a good clear race.'
Lobert, who finished 15th overall this week mused on his regatta. 'Today was a better day for me. This week I was trying some new gear and I have figured out that it is good in some conditions and not so good in others. Today I went back to my classic stuff just to get the confidence back for Hyeres. The speed was good and I really enjoyed the downwind today on the last race with the free pumping and nice waves. Now it's time to rest and be ready for Hyères.'
The final two silver fleet races brought a number of boats scoring OCS, including the first across the line in race nine Tomas Vika (CZE). Race nine was won by Julian Massler (GER) followed by Marko Kolic (ITA) and Egor Terpigorev (RUS). After more boats picked up an OCS in race 10, first across the line was Terpigorev, having a great day, followed by Alejandro Aranzueque (ESP) and Efe Kuyumcu (TUR). This leaves Massler as the winner of the silver fleet followed by Ali Kemal (TUR) and Andre Budzien (GER).
So, the medal race line up looks like this:
Ben Ainslie – Has a 14 point lead which only Scott can catch. With more titles than the rest of the fleet put together, no one is betting any money that he will lose this one.
Giles Scott – The winner in Miami has a 10 point lead over Le Breton, so will be interesting to see whether he protects that or goes for Ainslie.
Thomas Le Breton - Can grab the silver but also lose the bronze so could be attacking Scott while trying to defend against Slater
Dan Slater – Has nothing to lose. Cannot place worse than fourth so will almost certainly be attacking Le Breton from the start to get a medal.
Zach Railey - Opened the series well but picked up some high scores in past few days. Only nine points between sixth and last so there will be real battle in the bottom half of the fleet.
Gasper Vincec – One point behind Railey and again too far off to get a medal, but can also drop to the bottom with a bad race.
Ed Wright – The world champion and winner of the ISAF sailing world cup in 2009 and 2010 has left too much to do in the medal race. Won here last year, but now too far adrift to even take a medal.
Johan Tillander – Returning to the Finn after sailing Stars for a few years, he has already become a serious threat to the established Swedish sailors and improving all the time.
Vasilij Zbogar - Double Olympic Laser gold medalist who joined the Finns last year. So far can be a bit inconsistent but gradually getting there.
Rafael Trujillo – 2004 Olympic champion and 2007 world champion. Had some good results this week, but not enough of them to be challenging for a medal. Can still get up to fifth if he has a good race.
Ainslie won in Melbourne. Scott won in Miami. Ainslie and Scott are fighting for the win in Palma. Who will win the third leg of the 2011 ISAF Sailing Wiorld Cup? The medal races are scheduled to start from 11 am. Results after 10 races.
1 GBR 3 Ben AINSLIE 20
2 GBR 41 Giles SCOTT 34
3 FRA 29 Le BRETON 44
4 NZL 1 Dan SLATER 54
5 USA 4 Zach RAILEY 73
6 SLO 5 Gasper VINCEC 74
7 GBR 11 Ed WRIGHT 74
8 SWE 736 Johan TILLANDER 74
9 SLO 573 Vasilij ZBOGAR 80
10 ESP 100 Rafael TRUJILLO 82
Full results: www.trofeoprincesasofia.org/result.php?miclase=FINN
Event website: www.trofeoprincesasofia.org
Piotr Kula website: www.piotr-kula.pl