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Vancouver sailor a step closer to London 2012 Olympics

Competitors race in the RS:X Class event at the ISAF Sailing World Championships in Perth, Australia, Sunday, Dec 11. 2011. (AP Photo/Theron Kirkman)

Theron Kirkman/AP

Vancouver's Zachary Plavsic took a big stride towards his second consecutive Olympic berth, winning the third race of the sailboard RSX series at the world sailing championships.

Plavsic, 28, finished first in the blue fleet's third race Tuesday, the first time a Canadian has won a race in the RSX class at a world championship, mastering variable winds that ranged from 7 knots "to upwards of 20" estimated Canadian sailing coach Ken Dool.

"It's definitely rewarding," said Plavsic, who also placed 11th in the fourth race Tuesday to sit in 10th spot over all. For race four, the course configuration was more of a slalom. "It's a game of snakes and ladders out there," said Plavsic, who was Canada's windsurfing entry at the Beijing Olympics.

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Plavsic's RSX coach Kevin Stittle was very pleased for him.

"Zac was in control. It was not just a lucky race. He really worked for it. He did not round the first mark first but just seemed to get on the right side of every shift and catch every puff as it rolled down the course. He just nailed everything."

Finishing the fleet racing in the top 10 will lock in a spot for Plavsic on the Canadian Olympic team for London. Toronto's David Hayes had a consistent day, placing 26th and 25th today to put him in 32nd over all.

Plavsic has shown "moments of brilliance throughout the year," Dool said, referring to two podium finishes at World Cup events. "To put one together here at the worlds would be outstanding."

Dool described the RSX men's fleet as "an equal log jam at the top with Nimrod Mashich of Israel holding a slim lead over a pair of team mates from Poland." Mashich finished second and first in the yellow fleet yesterday.

The coach said a solid wind out of the south-southeast combined with localized showers to bring both breezes and variety to the courses.

In the Star class, Britain's Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson, the series leaders after four races and defending Olympic gold medalists, received their second yellow flag for kinetics – or pumping -- in race 5, forcing them to withdraw from that race. The team may withdraw from the worlds after Percy injured his lower back causing the team to not compete in Race 6 and dropping them down the leader board.

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"Things don't look good as Percy has indicated that they are likely done for the event." Dool said. "A tight battle is being fought throughout the fleet and at the top of Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada of Brazil have a slim one point lead over Mateusz Kusznierewicz and Dominik Zycki of Poland, who are tied for second on equal points with Mark Mendeblatt and Brian Faith of the United States. Canada's top team of Richard Clarke and Tyler Bjorn scored a 7 and a 15 on the day to sit 8th after 6 races.

Clarke explained that it was a very difficult day of sailing. They saw wind speeds up to 20 knots, slightly offshore at times. It fluctuated greatly throughout the day and there were large and often unpredictable wind shifts. It was not a day for sailing conservatively.

"You could not even buy a shift out there today," said Clarke.

The Canadians are within striking distance of the top five with six races to go. A top 10 finish here would lock in a spot for Clarke and Bjorn for the London Games. It's a possibility if the famed local breeze know as the Fremantle Doctor returns and, with it, conditions that favour the fast and conservative sailors like Clarke and Bjorn.

In Laser class, Dool said Tom Slingsby of Australia has broken open an "impressive' nine-point lead after four races over defending Olympic gold medalist Paul Goodison of Britain. Slingsby put on a clinic in the difficult conditions on the Laser course scoring a pair of firsts. The top Canadian performer on the day was Chris Dold of Toronto with a solid third-place finish during the first race of the day, and although he slid to 18th in race 2 he sits 23rd overall. Other Canadian scores in the Laser fleet included a pair of 13s for Lee Parkhill and a 12-21 from David Wright..

In the 49er, the top ranked Canadian team of Gordon Cook of Toronto and Hunter Lowden of Vancouver slipped to 33rd over all with finishes of 17th, 6th and 18th. The big news for Canada was that Johathan Ladha and Daniel Inkpen pulled off a second place in race 4 Tuesday to move up to 32nd over all.. According to Canadian 49'er coach Jason Rhodes, his teams suffered from trying to be too conservative. Gordon Cook is probably one of the smartest sailors on the team. He has an Engineering Physics degree and usually sails by the numbers rather than the 'seat of his pants'. But Tueday called for seat of the pants sailing on the 49er course.

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The pressure is on for the 49er sailors to move into the top 25 to advance to the gold fleet and medal racing after tomorrow's.

Three other Canadian crews are bound for consolation races. Billy Gooderham and Ian Hogan are 47th, Robert Frost and Tom Arbuckle 56th and Mathieu Dubreucq and Trevor Parekh 57th.

In the women's 470, the team of Dana Archibald and Karen Dexter continued to struggle with speed problems. They 40th in the 47-boat fleet.

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Sports reporter

James Christie written sports for the Globe on staff since 1974, covering almost all beats and interviewed the big names from Joe DiMaggio, to Muhammad Ali, to Jim Brown to Wayne Gretzky. Also covered the 10 worst years in Toronto Maple Leafs hockey history. More

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