It’s come down to a four way fight for gold. After leading all week, Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) will take a one point lead into Saturday’s medal race over Giles Scott (GBR). Tapio Nirkko (FIN) is seven points behind Scott with Jonathan Lobert (FRA) just two points further back. The gold will come one from of these four. Two other boats have a possibility to take the bronze medal.
A lot was standing on the final day of the opening series. The top was very tight and the cut for the medal race was even tighter. After a short postponement on shore to wait for the wind to fill in race nine got underway first time on the Naval course, in the middle of the bay.
With the fleet splitting into two in the eight – ten knots breeze half the fleet headed right towards Sugar Loaf and half headed towards the shore on the left, Jake Lilley (AUS) led round the top from Caleb Paine (USA) and Egor Terpigorev (RUS). It all changed downwind though with Postma moving through from sixth to first at the gate, from Lilley and Josh Junior (NZL).
The right side proved popular on the second beat with Postma maintaining his lead round the top and down to the finish. The second upwind was lengthened as the wind increased. Junior crossed in second and Lilly in third.
The second race got away cleanly after one general recall in near perfect conditions. With the tide under them the fleet was again evenly split heading out to the mouth of the bay. The wind was now at 12-14 knots and Oscar was raised at the top mark. Scott led all the way round, followed initially by Jorge Zarif (BRA) and Jonas Høgh-Christensen (DEN). However through the gate Zsombor Berecz (HUN) was up to second and Giannis Mitalis was third. Postma was back in sixth.
It was all on for the final upwind with Scott maintaing his lead to win the race while Mitakis moved up to second and Lobert third. Postma slipped to tenth with his lead overall narrowed to just one point going into the medal race. He has led this regatta since the first day.
For many sailors it’s been a week that began slowly and gathered momentum towards the end. Both local favourite Zarif and rising junior, Lilley struggled at the start of the week and were well outside the top ten. However both have had a great end to the week and will sail the medal race tomorrow.
Zarif said, “At the beginning of the week it was a little bit tough for me. I am not used to sailing on some areas, like outside, that we don’t normally sail on. It was tough so, to finish in the medal race is good. It’s not great to be ninth, but after the way I sailed this week it’s not so bad.”
On today “I am very used to sailing inside the bay, especially on this Naval School course, and I think I know a little bit better what is going so a fifth and seventh is a really decent day.”
Already qualified for next year, on his preparation he said, “I am still young and everyone wants me to get better and better quickly, but it’s a long process and we are planning to do a couple of races next year and now we have Rafa [Trujillo, who coached Zarif to his world championship win in 2013] back and he help a lot with all the preparation and I think we can do well in one year.”
Lilley was optimistic about his prospects. “I had a really tough start to the week, and I wasn’t having a lot of speed but yesterday and today I managed to have some better racing and get the speed a bit better and nail some tactics and go fast downwind. So pretty happy with how I proved this week and going into the medal race in seventh. We had some really tight racing and really good battles this week. This should make for a good Olympics next year for sure.”
On the courses, “They all present their own challenges. Offshore we have a bit more swell which is more enjoyable but inshore you have other challenges with the shifts and the current. They are all different and everyone seems to do well on some courses in particular.”
On next year, “There is still a bridge to gap, but we are not coming to the Olympics for a track suit, we here to win. We have 12 months to go and the trajectory is good so we are going to keep working hard.”
Scott described his day, “The first race was pretty tricky. I found myself on the back foot getting the first beat completely wrong, but then the fleet compressed downwind because it was wind against tide, but that saved me on the last downwind when I went from about 12th to fifth by playing the left hand side. It was a bit of a rescue.”
“In the second race I won the starboard end. The breeze shifted right and I decided to continue and for a moment it looked pretty bad. But it came back and I managed to cross the guys on the right and round in first and held on from there, so a good day.”
“PJ has one point on me going into tomorrow so I have managed to reel him in, which I am pretty pleased about considering my first day. With the Finnish and the French not far behind it should make for an exciting medal race.”
On the recovery, “Rio is a very difficult place to race and it does seem that you are going to have some challenging races no matter who you are and my week was made pretty difficult with getting two yellow flags on day 2. Everyone has been a little up and down, so it going to make for some tricky racing for sure.”
On the medal race. “There are four of who can still win the regatta, so it’s going to be pretty open between the four of us and I a sure there will be some comings together here and there but for sure there won’t be any take downs.”
The medal race is scheduled to start on the Sugar Loaf course at 13.45.