The first start of the penultimate two races of the Mistral class started after only a 40 minute delay from the scheduled start time while the Meltemi built to a satisfactory windspeed and stable direction. Eventually racing got underway and it was Great Britain's Nick DEMPSEY who took the initial charge.
Leading by a mere three seconds at the first mark, Tom ASHLEY from New Zealand rounded narrowly behind, sandwiched between the Brit and Poland's Prezmyslaw MIARCZYNSKI, who was clearly revelling in the stronger conditions. Ashley got the better of Dempsey on the reach to the wing mark but then lost out to the pair on the first run, rounding in third place to start the second beat of the race.
Close all the way round, Dempsey kept his medal hopes alive in the best way possible by winning race nine by 16 seconds from his closest rival overall, MIARCZYNSKI. Behind that pair Greece's Nikos KAKALAMANAKIS, currently in third place, had his lead over Dempsey cut to eight points going into race 10.
The overall regatta lead popped into the hands of Gal FRIDMAN from Israel as he won the battle for the points from Brazilian Ricardo SANTOS. He held a slim one point lead over Santos going into the penultimate race of the Competition.
Race ten of the competition was sailed in an increasing Meltemi after a prolonged delay when the sea breeze struggled to reduce the effect of the gradient north-westerly. In the end the more powerful Meltemi pulled through and racing got underway in a 14-knot easterly that remained remarkably stable across the course.
Ashley was again up at the front and leading the fleet round the first mark. Gal FRIDMAN was in second and looked like, if he could hold it, he would take a good advantage over Santos going in to the medal deciding race on Wednesday.
But Santos, who went round in sixth place, a full twenty seconds behind in this fast fleet, had gold in his eyes and over the course of the first run pulled through magnificently into first place. From that point on a phenomenal battle ensued at the top of the fleet. Fridman was third, the Gold medal advantage still unsure.
Up the second beat, Ashley regained the lead and Santos dropped to second. Then on the second downwind leg the brazilian was plundered into fourth place and looked set to lose his Gold medal advantage again. Fridman dropped to second by the end of the run and Santos got the bit between his teeth to leap back up into first. It was a lead he never relinquished and by the end of the race his lead was extended to nearly a minute.
Behind him, the main medal contenders were but a few places away and Santos takes a three point lead into a decider on Wednesday that promises to be a blinder. Fridman is only 2 points ahead of Kakalamanakis, who has a ten point cushion from Dempsey.
ISAF, 23 August 2004, 17:05 Links Event Pages Athens 2004