SKUD 18s racing on day three of the Paralympic Sailing Competition
Photograph:David Staley / IFDS
As the discard comes into play just two points separates the top three crews in the 11-boat SKUD18 fleet at the London 2012 Paralympic Sailing Competition.
Dan Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesh (AUS) lead the fleet on eight points having sailed to second in Race 5 and to the bullet in Race 6. Race 5 victors Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell (GBR) are second on nine points whilst America's Jen French and JP Creignou had a consistent day to sit third on 10 points.
With the top three crews in devastating form it's hard to see how Canada's John McRoberts and Stacie Louttit, who are fourth overall, can make up the eight point deficit.
In Race 5 the Australians and Brits quickly resumed the battle they've been fighting for two years. Fitzgibbon and Tesch had to re-start after the crossing the start line early but their superb boat speed brought them up to second by the first mark, 48 seconds behind the Brits.
French and Creignou (USA) were a considerable distance behind the front runners in third place but after their double bullets from the second day a third was not the end of the world as the positions remained the same until the close.
On the race win crew Birrell said, "I'm absolutely delighted. It was a clear first. We had good boat speed." Rickham added, "We're obviously happy with the results. We're aiming for a top three every day, but we're still battling it out with the US team and the Aussies."
It was a similar scenario in Race 6 as the leaders hit the front early on. Fitzgibbon and Tesch led from the first mark but faced pressure from the Brits. At the first downwind the Americans once again showcased their wonderful downwind sailing to climb from fourth to second.
Rounding the third mark 28 seconds behind the Australians French and Creignou chipped away at their lead but ultimately had to settle for second, an agonising five seconds behind Fitzgibbon and Tesch. Rickham and Birrell came through in third. "We're very pleased, especially with the final race over the top of the USA," said Tesch.
McRoberts and Louttit finished in fourth allowing the Americans to further extend the gap between the podium places and fourth place. Nonetheless French isn't getting carried away and remains wary, "We have our eye on our competition. We're not going to drastically change anything at this stage. The Canadians are still in the race and that makes it entertaining."
The SKUD18 fleet are set to resume racing at 11:00 local time tomorrow on Portland Harbour.
1. Dan Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch (AUS) - 8pts
2. Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell (GBR) - 9pts
3. Jen French and JP Creignou (USA) - 10pts
4. John McRoberts and Stacie Louttit (CAN) - 18pts
5. Marcos Gualandris and Marta Zanetti (ITA) - 29pts