California Dreaming

The competitors in the current SAP 505 World Championships have been served with a multi-course tasting menu of weather, based around a theme of breeze, mostly flavoured by sunshine of varying intensity.  Although they found the first two courses difficult to digest, since Race 3 this rich diet has been enthusiastically devoured by the Californian pair of Mike Martin and Adam Lowry, who went on to score 1, 1, 4, 2 in the last four rounds.
The previous day’s surfeit of rich delights with almost unbroken sunshine and winds averaging between 22 and 26 knots had left many competitors with a touch of indigestion and they were looking forward to a slightly lighter offering for Races 7 and 8.  However, the chef was again guilty of over egging the recipe as Race 7 started with the breeze some 4-5kts higher than forecast.
Pathfinders, Jens Findel and Johannes Tellen blasted up the line from the starting pin in over 20kts without incident.  The SAP trackers soon showed the usual suspects poking out their noses from the fleet, Andy Smith and Tim Needham (GBR), Mike Martin and Adam Lowry (USA), this time with the Australian team of Malcolm Higgins and Nick Johnson joining them.  At the top mark the first three rounded in this order and after the helter skelter downwind ride over the moguls Smith and Needham still led narrowly from Martin and Lowry.  Martin chased the British boat up the left hand side of the course and managed to break through.   On the next lap, defending champions Mike Holt and Carl Smit kept up the pressure on Smith and Needham and slipped through to second.  At the finishing gun it was Martin/Lowry, Holt/Smit and Smith/Needham, with two more former champions, Wolfgang Hunger(GER) and Howie Hamlin(USA) coming through in fourth and fifth place.
The current championship leaders, Nathan Batchelor and Sam Pascoe finished 11th in conditions which are not really their forte, but retained their overall lead.  However, the next race would be crucial to the overall standings as once eight races or more are held, a second discard comes into play, which potentially could allow Martin and Lowry to drop the 30th place scored in Race 2.
The wind softened for the start of Race 8, which was set on its way by Tom Gillard and Richard Anderton (GBR).  In spite of the wind reduction to around 17kts there was a sense of deja-vu when Smith and Needham popped round the first mark just ahead of Martin and Lowry, with Hamlin/Zinn, Hunger/Kleiner and Holt/Smit in close attendance.
By the end of the first lap Smith and Needham had extended their lead over Martin and Lowry, but the American pair felt confident in their upwind speed to hunt them down, following them up the left hand side of the beat.  The British pair were able to hold off this challenge for a further lap, but in the meantime the close tussle was for third place, which was held alternately by Hamlin/Zinn, Holt/Smit and Hunger/Kleiner.  On the third upwind leg Martin/Lowry eventually broke through Smith/Needham and started the final downwind run with a narrow lead.  The British pair followed the Americans down the favoured left hand side of the run, but about half way down the hill Martin/Lowry spotted that the following group had taken the right hand option.  They decided that covering this group was more important than another first place and gybed back.  Smith and Needham carried on to the lay line and powered into the leeward gate having retaken the lead.  At the finish it was Smith/Needham followed by Martin/Lowry, Hunger/Kleiner, Holt/Smit and Hamlin/Zinn.
Entering the final day, it is now Mike Martin and Adam Lowry in pole position for the championship, with a 22 point advantage over Batchelor and Pascoe.   However, with the wind for the final race forecast to be slightly lighter again, the Americans can take nothing for granted, and certainly cannot try to sail any other contender down the fleet given that their current discarded results are much higher than those of Batchelor and Pascoe.   The race for the other two podium places is even more wide open, with just a single point between each boat from second down to sixth.
Findel and Tellen, 9146, open the gate for Race 7 © Christophe Favreau
Bohm and Roos enjoying the brisk conditions © Christophe FavreauSmith & Needham edge Martin & Lowry in Race 8 © Christophe FavreauMartin & Lowry, 9106, are in the box seats ahead of final race © Christophe Favreau