As the world sailing championships head into the final races off Fremantle, Australia, all but the Star class was crossed up Wednesday by conditions that saw shifting winds and quirky wind velocities that varied from stillness to stiff breezes.
Canada's day was highlighted by Richard Clarke and Tyler Bjorn hanging on to eighth place over all in the Star keelboat, with two races left before the medal race. Clarke and Bjorn, former single-handed Finn specialists who two years ago teamed up in a Star, had mixed results in their keelboat with a seventh place in race 7 and 19th in race 8. The latter is currently their lowest result among the 42 boats to start yesterday. The worst result can be dropped in adding up overall placings at the end of the regatta to create a final standing.
Clarke and Bjorn, who expect to improve on their 16th-place rank in the world, attributed their inconsistent performance – and those of other Star competitors – to the flukiness of the conditions. The sixth-place Poles, for instance, didn't finish the seventh race, yet came in second in the eighth; the 11th place Germans were 12th and 42nd.
With no Fremantle doctor – the local afternoon breeze – the RSX sailboards completed only one race for each of the two fleets in the competition. Officials cancelled the opener because of light, shifty wind. The 49ers class was able to get off only two races per fleet rather than the scheduled three. Warm temperatures returned to the area, however a cloud cover prevented the sea breeze from establishing itself. All but the Star fleet had offshore winds and sporadic puffs from the right of the course – the west or ocean side.
The Star class boats had a light sea breeze for their first race and then waited until late afternoon for the offshore breeze to establish itself. They managed to keep to the regatta schedule by sailing two races, but it made for a long day.
With British Olympic gold medalists Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson withdrawn from the Star class – Percy's bad back left him in tears – the leadership reverted to the Brazilian team of Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada. Their individual race results include a first, three seconds and a third. They had a first and third-place finish Wednesday.
The racing is tight and only 10 points separate eight boats from fifth to 12th position over all. The Canucks, with 74 points, are only four points behind fifth-place Norway. The conservative sailing that Clarke predicted early on is now starting to pay dividends. Canada's other Star entry, carrying Stuart Hebb and Mike Wolfs, is sitting in 31st over all.
In RSX, the boards had to contend with especially fickle conditions as they were closest to shore in the shifty offshore breeze. David Hayes finished 16th and is currently sitting in 32nd overall. Zac Plasvic, the day after scoring Canada's first world championship RSX win, had his worst race of the series today with a 20th place. With that as his discarded result, he stands 13th overall. If Plavsic moves into the top 10 and the medal race, he is automatically pre-selected for an Olympic berth. Hayes' best shot at preventing this is to qualify for the championship fleet, which will be the top 46 competitors, and sail Plavsic out of the top 10. Hayes is currently 32nd.
The top two Canadians in the 49er fleet did not find their rhythm in the highly variable wind velocity (3-16 knots). Jonathan Ladha said he and partner Daniel Inkpen could have been "a little more patient." But, coach Jason Rhodes observed, they sailed their skiff in the middle of the course, which meant that they never were able to capitalize on the extra wind and sharp shifts on the edges of the course. Ladha and Inkpen are 29th over all, far astern of British front runners John Pink and Rick Peacock.
Thursday, the top 25 vessels move on to the championship fleet. The top 14 countries plus Britain, qualify for the Olympics.
The Canadian leaders may not make the championship fleet but are currently 15th in the standings among countries. They can qualify Canada for a Games berth even from the consolation fleet. Other Canadians in the 49er class: Gordon Cook and Hunter Lowden sit 34th; Billy Gooderham and Ian Hogan 49th; Robert Frost and Tom Arbuckle 57th; Mathieu Dubreucq and Trevor Parekh 58th.
The Laser fleet got two races off. Chris Dold held onto 23rd place over all with race placings of third and 19th. David Wright had a slightly better day with a seventh and 11th. Both sailors will make the championship fleet of the top 50 boats.
The inexperienced 470 women had another day of schooling, with results of 41 and 48.