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YACHTING: "Most exciting sailboard racing ever"

The ides of March turned on extreme conditions for competitors in the fifth day of the Yachting New Zealand Olympic selection trials being sailed off Eastern Beach.

After sailors floated around on glassy seas on Tuesday, a 25-knot south-westerly whipped up a steep chop, making for tough sailing conditions. Most classes were sailing at the top end of their allowed wind limits. Three races were scheduled for Wednesday to make up for lost time earlier in the week but conditions only allowed two to be sailed in all classes.

Almost at the regatta's halfway mark, the competition is heating up rapidly, with only two or three points separating first and second in most classes.

"The most exciting boardsailing race I have ever seen in my life," is how YNZ boardsailing coach Grant Beck described Wednesday’s second race on the Mistral course where the battle between Aaron McIntosh and Jon Paul Tobin continues.

Only two points separate the pair, with both absolutely determined to win this all-or-nothing contest which has more or less turned into a match race.

"Sailing in 25 knots of wind, they were going downwind at a speed of 25 knots and half the time they were airborne," says Beck. "They were never more than a length apart for the whole race. It was like they were tied together with a piece of string, they were match racing gybe-for-gybe around the entire course."

Tobin was leading almost the whole way but missed a tack approaching the top mark on the last upwind leg and so had to put in two more to make up. This opened up a minute window of opportunity for three-time world champion McIntosh, who snatched the lead and held on all the way to the finish.

Understandably disappointed by the result, Tobin remained philosophical after the race: "When it’s that close, it all comes down to who makes the first mistake and unfortunately that was me. I missed a tack on the last upwind leg and Aaron was able to overtake. That was that, really."

A win for Tobin in the first race maintains the pressure cooker tension in the Mistral fleet, with McIntosh on eight points and Tobin on ten. Two more races are scheduled for today.

Chris Dickson is hanging on to top spot in the Tornado catamarans. A first and a third yesterday puts him and new crew member Glen Sowry a valuable four points ahead of Wellington’s Simon Manning and Andy Robertson.

Dickson and Sowry ran into problems with their gib half way through the first race but still managed to win comfortably. Not quite so comfortable was the planned capsize to administer first aid in between races, which saw Sowry swimming to reach the top of the mast to repair the damage.

A premature start in the second race, combined with an unscheduled capsize during the first mark-rounding had Dickson and Sowry running to catch up with the rest of the fleet. They were given a little breathing space by Manning and Robertson, who suffered a similar fate later in the race. Dickson eventually finished third and first overall (10 points), with the Wellingtonians fifth and second overall (14 points).

A big swell and fresh conditions made for boat-breaking weather on the 470 course. After winning today’s first race, class veterans Simon Cooke and Peter Nicholas, along with three other crews, suffered a broken mast and were unable to finish the second race, forcing them to carry an expensive 10 points and third overall (24 points).

Relative newcomers Nick Taylor and Reece Brailey maintain the lead over the fleet with 15 points. Canterbury women 470 sailors Melinda Henshaw and Jenny Egnot are comfortably ahead of the other women in the fleet, but also suffered from broken equipment in today’s second race.

Stuart Bannatyne from Wellington continues his steady progress through the Finn class, notching up another win (his third of the regatta) and a second yesterday, maintaining his overnight lead (10 points) ahead of Ian Baker (15 points).

Says Bannatyne: "I was first round the top mark in the first race, and from then on, it was a case of minimising my mistakes and staying in phase with the shifts to defend my lead."

In the second race, the Wellingtonian’s lead was snatched by Timaru’s Ian Baker, who got his tactics exactly right and overtook Bannatyne at the start of the last upwind leg. Says Bannatyne: "He got on the right of me coming out of the gate for the second time and after that, there were no passing lanes."

Sarah Macky, Abby Mason and Sharon Ferris continued their three-way struggle for dominance in the Europe fleet. In Wednesday’s two races, Mason grabbed the first win and Macky, the second.

Macky finished second behind Mason in the first race, allowing her to maintain her overall lead, albeit by three points (9 points). Mason is second on 12 points and Ferris third on 16 points. A drifting mark caused problems for the race committee, with a number of protests filed.

Competitors in all classes are able to discard their worst score at the start of today’s seventh race. This will see a mix-up in the placings, and for many at the top of the tables, a closing of the points gap.

PROVISIONAL RESULTS - Day 5, Wednesday 15 March

MISTRAL SAILBOARD - after 6 of 11 races (men & women sailed & scored as a single fleet)
1. Aaron McINTOSH: 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 1 (8pts)
2. Jon-Paul TOBIN: 2, 2, 2, 1, 1, 2 (10pts)
3. Bruce KENDALL: 3, 5, 4, 4, OCS, 4 (33pts)

470 - after 6 of 11 races (men & women sailed as a single fleet)
1. Nicholas TAYLOR / Reece BRAILEY: 4, 3, 1, 2, 4, 1 (15pts)
2. Derek SCOTT / Matthew MINOPRIO: 2, 5, 3, 6, 3, 4 (23pts)
3. Simon COOKE / Peter NICHOLAS: 5, 1, 4, 3, 1, dnf (24pts)

EUROPE - after 6 races of 11
1. Sarah MACKY; 2, 2, 1, 1, 2, 1 (9pts)
2. Abby MASON; 1, 1, 3, 3, 1, 3 (12pts)
3. Sharon FERRIS; 3, 4, 2, 2, 3, 2 (16pts)

FINN - after 6 of 11 races
1. Stuart BANNATYNE; 3, 1, 1, 2, 1, 2 (10pts)
2. Ian BAKER; 1, 5, 4, 1, 3, 1 (15pts)
3. Clifton WEBB; 6, 3, 2, 3, 2, 3 (19pts)

TORNADO - after 5 of 11 races
1. Chris DICKSON / Glen SOWRY; 1, 3, 2, 1, 3 (10pts)
2. Simon MANNING / Andy ROBERTSON; 3, 2, 1, 3, 5 (14pts)
3. Nigel WILLIAMS / Jeremy STEPHENSON; 2, 4, 4, 4, 1 (15pts)

For full results see: www.yachtingnz.org.nz

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