Sam Meech showed his class on day three of the Laser world championships in Sakaiminato, rocketing to the top of the standings on the back of two wins yesterday.
The 28-year-old revelled in the fresh winds and big waves, virtually leading from start to finish in both of his races to take a one-point lead over Australia's Matt Wearn.
It's particularly tight in the standings as the best sailors now head into three days of gold fleet racing, with only 10 points separating the top 11 boats. Among them is New Zealand's George Gautrey, who is now seventh, and Tom Saunders is not far behind in 14th.
Gautrey had started the day in third, level on points with the leaders, and was fourth in the first race before he was disqualified in the second for being over the start line.
Most of the main contenders are jostling near the top of the standings, with Olympic, world and European champions all hovering, which will make for some tasty gold fleet racing.
Meech will go into it in top form, having banked two firsts and two seconds in his six races to date. His drop for his worst result is presently a 12th.
"It was a really good day for me today; a nice way to end the qualifying with a couple of wins," Meech said. "I was going pretty well upwind - I was out of phase a few times - and managed to get a lead around the top mark and then downwind I was going really fast. We had even better sailing conditions than yesterday and with bigger waves. It was fun.
"It's nice to be able to drop that 12, fingers crossed. I'm really hoping for some good wind towards the end of the week. The forecast wasn't looking great a couple of days ago but it would be nice to have some good breeze for gold fleet racing."
Saunders enjoyed his best day of the regatta yesterday, banking a third and fourth to move up to 14th overall only 16 points off the lead, but it could have been even better.
"It was a better day for me, apart from an unforced error hitting the bottom mark in the last race which cost me three places," he said. "I feel like I’ve left a few points out there in qualifying but managed to limit the damage after an average start to the regatta.
"The finals start [today] which will mix up the leaderboard. Hopefully I can continue to trend the right way.
"I haven’t had the best year to date but this is our peak event and I'm looking to perform when it matters. I enjoy Japan and have had some of my best results here so we’ll see what happens towards the end of the week."
Josh Armit, who won last year's youth sailing world championships in the Laser Radial, is 81st in his first world championships in the full rig and will race in silver fleet and Luke Deegan (127th) will be in bronze fleet.
Results and standings after day 3 of the Laser world championships in Sakaiminato, Japan, yesterday (156 boats):
1st: Sam Meech (NZL) (12) 7 2 2 1 1 - 13 points
2nd: Matt Wearn (AUS) (13) 7 3 1 2 1 - 14 pts
3rd: Jean-Baptiste Bernaz (FRA) 3 2 (7) 2 1 7 - 15 pts
7th: George Gautrey (NZL) 2 2 3 7 4 (53 BFD) - 18 pts
14th: Tom Saunders (NZL) (21) 5 10 7 3 4 - 29 pts
81st: Josh Armit (NZL) (38) 27 18 26 32 22 - 125
127th: Luke Deegan (NZL) (47) 40 36 33 43 35 - 187 pts
- Pic: Sam Meech won both of his races on day three at the Laser world championships in Japan. Photo: Junichi Hirai / Bulkhead Magazine.