After a day in which Lake Garda offered up a strengthening Ora breeze and beautiful autumn sunshine, the battle lines have been drawn for tomorrow's final day of racing for the 2023 TF35 Trophy season. With four teams tied on points, it couldn't be closer.
In the overnight ranking, Jérôme Clerc's Realteam Sailing has taken the lead on countback ahead of Yann Guichard's almost equally consistent Spindrift. Alinghi Red Bull Racing are up to third by a single point over Ylliam XII - Comptoir Immobilier and ZEN Too, tied on points behind.
In the first race today, Spindrift were immediately in trouble, breaking the rod that controls the foils on the port side after leaving the dock, taking them out of the race before the start horn had even sounded and giving the advantage to Realteam Sailing, who lit up downwind and took the victory with a healthy margin over the rest of the fleet.
Realteam again led from start to finish for the next two races, but with Spindrift back in the game thanks to a quick on-the-water fix from their technical team, the crew were working hard to recover the points they had lost, posting two second-placed finishes.
"Our technical issue gave us a difficult time onboard and extra stress considering the points are so close with Ylliam XII - Comptoir Immobilier and Realteam. But we stayed motivated, performed well and kept the points as close as possible going into tomorrow," reflected mainsail trimmerDuncan Späth.
Guichard's team finally got their break in the fourth and final race of the day when, halfway up the first beat, the wind shifted right and caught their rivals Realteam Sailing on the outside and in the dirty air of the whole fleet. Clerc had to put in an extra tack to get to the windward gate, costing them heavily. Clear ahead, Spindrift took the final bullet of the day with Guy de Picciotto's ZEN Too in second and Alinghi Red Bull Racing in third.
Two boats between the leading teams in today's final race means that points-wise, going into tomorrow's finale, Clerc and Guichard are tied but Realteam has the advantage on countback with five first place finishes over Spindrift's three.
The competition for the final position on the podium is just as intense. Alinghi Red Bull Racing is currently in third with a one-point buffer. Having sailed a relatively consistent regatta so far, they added a 2, 4, 3 to their scoreline today. Behind Ylliam XII - Comptoir Immobilier's win in the opening race of the regatta is holding them in fourth ahead of ZEN Too on countback, but both teams have struggled to execute the consistently good starts needed to make steady progress on the Garda race track.
"It was a tough day; between 8 - 12 knots, classic Garda breeze. It's a bit of a one-track race course, so it's hard to recover if you don't start well," explained ZEN Too tactician Grégoire Siegwart.
"We struggled in the first two starts and lost a lot of distance straight away, but in the second half of the day, we had average to good starts, good speed and good tactics and were able to finish in third and second place, putting us in position to fight for the podium tomorrow.
"We are up against Alinghi for fourth in the overall season trophy, so we need to finish ahead of them in this regattas - that is our priority. But also, the team has improved a lot this season, so it would be nice to end the year on a high with a podium".
Tomorrow's final will get underway from 13:00 CET. Follow live at www.tf35.org