The tension meter took another upward hike in the finale of the 2011 Audi MedCup with the Barcelona regatta leader, the British-based Rán, slipping one place and by just one point in the one race of the day to local contender Bribón.
There were a few ladders to offer advancement, but many more snakes to bite you in really tricky conditions and, with the coastal race previously scheduled for Friday likely to be replaced by two more inshores and a final two on Saturday.
With the breeze also more likely to strengthen, the pressure on the series leader, the American team Quantum, has increased.
Skipper Ed Baird still has a seven-point lead after the 40 races so far this season, but was seventh on Thursday and can ill-afford any more of those.
“Today was certainly challenging,” said Baird. “It was a dying, not quite sure what is going to happen, sort of day. But we have had people breathing down our necks all season and we still have a bigger lead than we started this regatta.”
Niklas Zennström knows that Rán’s 2011 race is run and that he just has to keep the Russian team Synergy, whose boat is for sale, at bay to secure fifth. But more, in the shape of the Barcelona Trophy, is possible. With 11 points, and Bribón on 10, he is 10 points clear of third-placed Container from Germany, whose skipper Markus Weiser, with navigator Marc Lagesse and tactician Hamish Pepper, had some very satisfied smiles with a win which typified their up and down results at all five of the MedCup regattas.
Container also has one of the strongest mid-boat crew line-ups but, as in many other sports, failure to minimise the mistakes has cost an impressive team dear.
At the other end of the scale, the Argentinian-backed Italian team from Porto Cervo, Sardinia, put in a second tail-end result which pushed them from second overall for the season so far to fourth, one point behind Container.
Said skipper Francesco Bruni: “It was a very difficult day. We want to fight every remaining moment of the championship. We would take the same decisions again, and we are going to stick to our guns.” Tactician Vasco Vascotti high-tailed it.
In Plymouth, the seeding races left the former Quantum skipper and championship winner Terry Hutchinson top of the heap in the seeding races for the match race section of the America’s Cup World Series. That gives him a bye into Saturday’s semi-finals and finals with the remaining eight fighting it out for the other three places.