With just three races to sail at the Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition, Giles Scott (GBR) has extended his lead to 17 points in the Finn fleet after a clinical performance on Saturday in Guanabara Bay. Vasilij Zbogar (SLO) stays in second while Jake Lilley (AUS) rises to third. The day belonged to these three, the only sailors to get two low results all day. But the racing was just so incredibly close, and it could have been a lot different. After 50 minutes of full-on racing, these world-class athletes were separated by just seconds. No one gives an inch. Every inch is fought for with incredible determination. There is no let up until the line is crossed.
The right-hand side was clearly the preferred choice on the Ponte course today, but the reality was subtly different with gains to be made on the left and also the middle. Lilley led round the top mark in race 7, but Scott soon took the lead downwind to extend around the course for a 30 second win, the biggest boat to boat margin of the day. Behind him it could not have been closer, with the whole fleet no more than 70 seconds apart. There were some big moves within the fleet though with Jorge Zarif (BRA) coming through from 15th at the top to take second place at the final downwind mark to lead Lilley into the finish by just three seconds.
Race 8 was almost as close, with all boats finishing within 100 seconds. Jonas Høgh-Christensen (DEN) found the top mark first after favouring the left side, but it all went horribly wrong from there in, losing 15 places before the finish. Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) rounded in second and took the lead on the first downwind, never to be threatened again. Josh Junior (NZL) was the biggest climber, coming through from 11th at the first mark to second at the finish, while Scott extended his lead overall with a third place finish.
Scott explained, “Rio really delivered some great conditions for us. Nice clear skies, the sea breeze kicked in, the wind funnelled straight down the bay, with a nice and clean 12 knots. Really nice sailing.”
“It’s nice to put in consistent results at the top of the fleet. I think myself and Vasilij had a good day today and behind that there were a few guys that were up and down.”
“Having the points margin is a big confidence booster, but the thing for me to focus on is that it isn’t over, you can’t get complacent, you need to attack tomorrow, like I’ve done today. Nothing really changed, but clearly having that margin is the place to be. There’s still a lot to play for.”
Zbogar has been in the top two all week. He was very happy, almost relieved, with two top fives. “To make these two results keeps me alive. I have some chance if it is light tomorrow. First I need to get into the medal race and then the points will be very close. What is incredible is how compact the fleet is, how we are battling for half a metre. Before we were battling for 10 metres, now it is less than one metre. And you make a small mistake and we all crossed the finish in a minute. This has never happened before in the Finn class. The level is extremely high and to push, you have to push all the time. You make a wrong gybe and two boats go by. It’s nice from my side because it really close racing and it’s tough, but it’s exhausting as well.”
Now up to third overall, Lilley is keeping calm and not taking anything for granted. “It doesn’t matter; we will take it one race at a time. Everyone has big scores, so anything can happen.”
“We had a different day compared to the last few days. Very tight tactical racing and it was good to put some low scores together. Hopefully more of the same tomorrow. We will just focus on our processes and try to put as few points as possible on the board.”
Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO), triple European champion, has been steady most of the week, but now his consistency is seeing him rise though the ranks. He ends the day in fifth overall.
“It’s exciting, and I should say it’s not easy to sail and the competition is really fierce. Everyone is performing really well, as expected, and the differences are very minor. We can only see Giles a little bit in front, and Vasilij is showing quite a consistent performance and steady sailing. Everyone else is going up and down a lot, which is showing a good level. Everyone has high expectations and we are all pushing really hard but at such a level you can always make a few mistakes. It’s the same for me.”
“Since the beginning I have been struggling a bit, but am now on a steady pace and today I was quite consistent. Only in the last race I made a bad choice on a gate and I lost around 150 meters. And this was hard to recover, but I managed to stay in the top 10 by just inches. I am satisfied, but not really happy because I know I could have done the second race better.”
“Tomorrow we have two more races in lighter wind, which I can perform quite well in, so let’s hope we get some racing tomorrow.”
One place behind is Zarif. “It’s been very hard. I live here and I sailed here for 15 years and sometimes I don’t know what goes on here. It’s hard to predict.”
“The races are also very close. Everyone is now good on the downwind, as opposed to a few years ago. Also, except for Giles everyone has a lot of different results. The important thing is to be close to the top guys going into the last day.”
After some ups and downs this week, Postma was pretty happy to win the last race. “A better last race. You know it was such hard work and it’s so close racing. It’s amazingly close racing. It’s hard.”
“The first downwind I won three or four places, the second downwind I lost 10. And the last two I extended. So for me it’s not automatic. I need to work, fight for every place. And at the mark roundings everyone was super close.”
“It will be a fight until the last moments. A lot of respect for Vasiliy and Giles. There’s very little in it."
“But good to get a win in. Happy with the last one.”
Caleb Paine (USA) was reinstated into his second place in Race 6, following new video evidence produced overnight. He now moves back up to seventh overall, and within 12 points of the podium. With just 14 points separating seventh to 14th, there is still some tough racing to be done.
Racing for Finns continues on Sunday with two more races on the Niteroi course area outside the bay to conclude the opening series ahead of Tuesday's medal race.