#Best of Irish squad James Espey took a further dip in the gold fleet rankings today at the ISAF World Cup in Palma after a black flag penalty ruled him out of race nine of the Laser class. The Belfast man bounced back in race ten with a ninth, his fourth top ten result of the regatta, but scored a 55 in the last race today to end up 41st overall, a drop from his 24th overall on Wednesday but crucially still in the top 20 nations in the massive 144–boat fleet.
"Gold fleet racing didn't go the way I had hoped, I had some big points added to my over results. The good news is I did finish 20th Nation, (41th over all) even with a lot of added on points" Espey said on Facebook.
In order to qualify Ireland at the ISAF Santander worlds this September, Espey must finish in the 23 nations, so Palma is a step in the right direction.
A string of silver fleet wins (five in total) and a 14th for Annalise Murphy in the Laser Radial gave her 46th overall from 96 starters. Her London 2012 team mates Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern in the 49er skiff were 35th overall from 79 ending with a 2, 2 and 3 in their silver fleet.
49erfx debutantes Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey counted two 'U flag penalties' (start line infringements) in the closing stages but bounced back to end the regatta with two fifths in the silver fleet to be 37th out of 50.
The overall performance was described by team management as 'rusty' in the Irish Times Sailing Column on Friday.
Ross Hamilton in the Finn dinghy did not compete in the final race and ended 73 from 92.
Full results here.
The Cup got down to the business end of proceedings as the final series concludes with tomorrow's Medal Races to decide the honours. Helena Lucas (GBR) took the 2.4mR gold as the Paralympic event concluded racing whilst Nacra 17, Laser Radial and Women's RS:X gold medals were sealed with a day to spare.
Robert Scheidt (BRA) dropped dramatically from first to ninth in the Laser as he felt the full effect of a starting penalty. Whilst he discards the BFD from Race 9 he counts a 24th in Race 8 and a 39th from Race 10.
With Scheidt taking a sudden fall Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) has taken the lead as he bids to record his third ISAF Sailing World Cup medal of the 2013-2014 series.
Stipanovic won gold at ISAF Sailing World Cup Qingdao and Miami and has a one point lead over Jean Baptiste Bernaz (FRA). Tom Burton (AUS) is third on 73 points.
Cyprus' Pavlos Kontides pulled to within medal contention after winning all of the day's races. The Cypriot comfortably won the first race of the day but was pushed in the following two. He finished two seconds ahead of Bruno Fontes (BRA) in the second of the day and in the final race of the day he pipped Stipanovic by a second.
Kontides moves up to fifth on 84 points and gives himself a fighting chance of a podium finish. Nicholas Heiner (NED) is fourth on 77 points.
Helena Lucas (GBR) took gold in the 2.4mR despite losing out to compatriot Megan Pascoe (GBR) in all three races on the final day of Paralympic event sailing as Pascoe was made to settle for silver.
Lucas took an 11th and two thirds as she won by three points, "The first race was a complete nightmare. We were really close to the shore and the wind died – there were some crazy shifts going on and I was just relieved when that race was over," confessed the 38-year-old.
"It was one of those painful races where whatever I did was wrong.
"It's been one of those days where it felt like everything was stacked against you a little bit, but it was a solid third in the other two races.
"I knew I just needed to kind of keep in solid and finish inside the top three in both of those races and it would all be fine, but it was definitely a tricky day."
Norway's Bjornar Erikstad took the day and won all three of the 2.4mR races finishing ahead of Pascoe who picked up three second places. Erikstad's final day performance ensured a bronze for the Norwegian.
2013 World Champions Billy Besson and Marie Riou (FRA) won gold in the Nacra 17 with a day to spare.
Besson and Riou finished out of the top eight spots for the first time on the penultimate day of racing with a 31st in Race 10. They discarded the result and came back stronger in Race 11 to take the bullet. A seventh in the 12th race of the series sealed the deal ahead of the Medal Race.
ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami gold medallists Vittorio Bissaro and Silvia Sicouri (ITA) came out flying to post a 2-2-3 and move into second overall. Thomas Zajac and Tanja Frank (AUT) moved up into third as overnight podium holders Darren Bundock and Nina Curtis (AUS) and Franck Cammas and Sophie de Turckheim (FRA) slipped out of the medal spots.
Marit Bouwmeester's (NED) consistent week of racing paid off as she sealed the deal in the Laser Radial. Bouwmeester only finished out of the top three twice all week and only two seventh place finishes, one of which she discards, scores an excellent score card.
The Dutch sailor tops the leader board on 22 points followed by Finland's Tuula Tenkanen on 48 points and Evi Van Acker (BEL) on 62 points.
Three races took place on the fifth day of racing with the race victories going to Van Acker, Maria Erdi (HUN) and Marie Barrue (FRA).
Charline Picon (FRA) showed that consistency pays dividends within the Women's RS:X fleet and holds an unassailable 42 point lead to take gold with a day to spare.
The French racer finished in the top nine in all of the 12 Women's RS:X races building up to the Medal Race and will take to the race course on the final day without any pressure.
It's a different case behind the French girl with seven points splitting second to fifth. Lilian De Geus (NED), Blanca Manchon (ESP), Bryony Shaw (GBR) and Flavia Tartaglini (ITA) all have a fighting chance of taking a podium spot which will make for an intriguing Medal Race.
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL) extended their lead over Denmark's Jonas Warrer and Peter Lang to 21 points after three 49er races on the penultimate day. Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign (GBR) leap frogged Niko Delle-Karth and Nikolaus Resch (AUT) into third.
"It was a complete range of conditions and we're happy to come away with two firsts and a tenth," said Tuke. "It was a tricky day; there was a lot of left over waves from the storm yesterday. The wind started off quite strong but it was offset of the waves and then it dropped and went left. We had to keep our head out of the boat and try to understand what was going on with the clouds and why it was shifting left.
"We did that quite nicely in the first race and the last race but mucked up in the middle race."
With 30 points on the table on the final day Tuke knows that despite their handsome lead the job is not done, "Three more races tomorrow so there's a lot left to play for. I think the Danish boys and another couple will still be in the hunt. It will be a good day tomorrow. The Medal Races are great fun and we're happy to be a part of it."
Warrer and Lang came into Mallorca with good form and are 14 points clear of third. On the final day they will push the Kiwis for top honours. Warrer said, "We won in Miami and won the North Americans so we came here to be in the top and we feel like we can beat the best. We're happy with where we are and we're pushing as hard as we can to catch the New Zealand guys."
Ahead of racing Austria's Delle Karth recognised the importance of the fifth day of racing. Before racing commenced Delle-Karth said, "I think today is going to be a crucial day and challenging conditions. We want to attack the front, be safe and make the same as the last few days."
Unfortunately for the Austrians they were 18th, eighth and 18th and fell to fourth overall as Fletcher and Sign took the initiative.
Unsurprisingly the Brits were happy to move into the podium positions, "All week we've been going in with the thought of being able to get close to medalling on the last day and now we can actually achieve that," said Sign, "Everything we've done this week has been leading into that and I think tomorrow will be when the real game starts to happen, it should be fun."
Three 49er single point races will bring the skiff action to a close on 5 April 2014.
Despite holding onto their lead Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA) admitted to finding the going tough in three 49erFX races, "Everybody has had bad days, we had ours today," said Kunze. "Today was a little bit more difficult. The direction of the wind was changing all the time but I'm happy because we've had a really nice week of racing. We've done what we wanted to do and reach our goals."
The Brazilians recorded a seventh, a discarded 20th and a final race bullet to go into three final 49erFX races with a four point lead over Ida Marie Baad Nielsen and Marie Thusgaard Olsen (DEN). On the final day Kunze added, "We'll sail our best and see what happens."
Nielsen and Olsen put themselves to within touching distance of the Brazilians after three bullets the day prior but were unable to capitalise and take the initiative. They discard a 19th in the opening race of the day and count a 12th and a third. Olsen said, "The racing so far has been really good, we are second overall at the moment and we are happy with that."
Charlotte Dobson and Sophie Ainsworth (GBR) are third overall on 77 points.
Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic (CRO) took hold of the Men's 470 after displaying superb consistency on the penultimate day.
The Croatians started the day brightly and in the first race they trailed behind in eighth at the first mark. They fought hard to work their way up the pack and on the final run took the lead out of Giulio Desiderato and Andrea Trani's (ITA) hands to take the bullet by five seconds.
A fourth and an eighth followed as they won the day to head into the Medal Race with a seven point lead over Lucas Calabrese and Juan de la Fuente (ARG). After racing Fantela said, "We will race our own race, try to read the conditions and tune the boat as best as possible to have the best possible speed.
"We have confidence in the Medal Race and we have done a lot of Medal Races since we started. We will see the point's difference between the rest of the fleet and then we will work out our tactics."
Calabrese and Juan de la Fuente have some work to do in the Men's 470 and will venture into the Medal Race fully charged, "We will make a plan and hopefully we can get a medal and do as good as we can," said Calabrese.
"We have to look at them [Croatians] but try to do our own race because they are a little far away from us. We'll basically try to have the best race we can and look at what they are doing so we can put some boats in between."
France's Camille Lecointre and Hélène Defrance have a bit of daylight in between themselves and New Zealand's Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie ahead of the Medal Race.
Both crews are guaranteed medals on the final day but the advantage going into the deciding race belongs to the French pair who are seven points clear.
The French and Kiwi teams had strong days on the water whilst the chasing fleet were unable to match their consistency. Lecointre and Defrance recorded an 8-2-1 scoreline whilst Aleh and Powrie had a slightly better day picking up a 3-1-6.
After racing Powrie said, "We had three races today to catch up from yesterday so we had a pretty good day, single figures so we're happy with that. Medal Races are always a bit of fun so we'll see how we get on."
Aleh added, "It was a pretty tricky day, we had wind, no wind, lots of wind, nothing, big waves and it got at bit crazy at times but it was good fun. We had two good races but the last one we stuffed up a little bit but not too bad, three decent races."
Both crews will battle for gold on the final day of racing.
Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark (GBR) slipped into third after an up and down day. They brought themselves into contention for gold by taking the first bullet of the day but a 16th and a 19th in the ensuing races meant they fell off the tail of the leaders. Nonetheless they are on track for bronze and are four points clear of Fernanda Oliveira and Ana Luiza Barbachan (BRA).
There's very little separating the top five in the Men's RS:X following two races on the fifth day of racing.
France's Pierre le Coq took the lead back from Byron Kokkalanis (GRE) as the Greek racers day didn't go entirely to plan. The ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami victor finished out of the top five for the first time in the 11 race series. Kokkalanis remained consistent in the opening race and posted a fourth but a 26th and a 24th followed resulting in him dropping to fifth overall.
Le Coq on the other hand battled hard for a fifth, a third and a discarded 29th. He leads on 43 points. Toni Wilhelm (GER) is second on 46 points and Julien Bontemps (FRA) is in third on 47 points.
Le Coq, Bontemps and Louis Giard (FRA), in fourth on 50 points, are fighting it out for one of two spots for the Aquece Rio - International Sailing Regatta 2014, a Rio 2016 test event and it's all to play for on the final day.
Finn racers faced a frustrating day on the water and were left waiting around for consistent breeze. Unfortunately they were unable to get racing away.
Racing concludes on Saturday 5 April with eight double point Medal Races whilst the 49er and 49erFX will sail three single points' races.
11:20 – 49er
12:20 – 49erFX
11:10 – 470 Women
11:50 – 470 Men
12:30 – Finn
13:10 – Nacra 17
11:00 – Laser Radial
11:40 – Laser
12:20 – RS:X Women
13:00 – RS:X Men