Sam Meech and Andrew McKenzie continued their charge at the Laser European championships in La Rochelle overnight (NZ time) but things are about to get a whole lot more difficult as all the other top sailors join them in gold fleet.
Meech is second and McKenzie third after three days of qualifying. Meech added a second and fourth overnight and is now one point behind Australia's Matthew Wearn and McKenzie banked two third-placed finishes to be another five points behind.
The complexion of racing will change tonight as the top 54 sailors compete over three days in gold fleet, including a third New Zealander George Gautrey who qualified in 42nd.
The first three days saw the 160 competitors split into three fleets, which saw some very low scoring from many in the top 20.
Susannah Pyatt is the best placed of the trio of New Zealanders in the Laser Radial in 19th with Olivia Christie 39th.
Meech had his worst day of the regatta so far, if you can call it that, after opening with four-straight race wins.
"It was a harder day for me but I had two shocking starts," he says.
"Luckily I was still sailing OK and managed to catch up with the fleet. My speed is really good and I managed to get most of the [wind] shifts right to come back in both. Unfortunately the starts let me down and I couldn't quite get in front.
"It was another fun day with great racing conditions and I think more is forecast tomorrow so it's turning into a pretty epic regatta weather-wise. We haven't had anything like this in a while. It's really good but the body is getting a little sore because of all the hiking which I'm not really used to on this European trip so far."
The conditions are also to McKenzie's liking and he's put himself in the frame to repeat last year's result when he was third at the Laser European championships in Barcelona.
McKenzie was in a different group to Meech for qualifying and has sailed consistently well, with his discard for his worst result so far an eighth.
"We had quite a few black flag general recalls in red fleet today so it was great to come away unscathed and with some good starts," he says.
"It was a touch lighter than yesterday and shiftier but I managed to get the phase mostly right which put me in the lead bunch at the top mark in both races. The last race was an intense battle with three or four other boats the whole way around the track so it was nice to just finish ahead of them.
"I’m well positioned overall at the moment but the points will really tighten up in some tough gold fleet racing, so you can’t read too much into the overall results at the moment. But it’s nice to know I’m sailing well and am in the mix."
Also in the frame is world champion Pavlos Kontides (Cyprus) in fourth, top German Philipp Buhl in fifth and two-time world champion and defending champion Nick Thomspon (Great Britain) in 17th.
Maxime Jonker leads the Laser Radial from fellow Dutchwoman Marit Bouwmeester.
Results and standings after the thrd day of the Laser European Championships at La Rochelle, France, overnight:
Laser (160 boats)
1st: Matthew Wearn (AUS) (2) 1 1 1 1 1 - 5 points 2nd: Sam Meech (NZL) 1 1 1 1 2 (4) - 6 pts 3rd: Andrew McKenzie (NZL) 2 2 (8) 1 3 3 - 11 pts
42nd: George Gautrey (NZL) 22 (55 BFD) 13 8 20 3 - 66 pts 95th: Matthew Kempkers (NZL) (41) 16 24 40 31 26 - 137 pts
Laser Radial (93 boats)
1st: Maxime Jonker (NED) 1 1 1 (8) 1 1 - 5 pts 2nd: Marit Bouwmeester (NED) 3 (9) 1 3 1 2 - 10 pts 3rd: Emma Plasschaert (BEL) (16) 3 5 2 2 2 - 14 pts
19th: Susannah Pyatt (NZL) 14 12 4 10 11 (16) - 51 pts 39th: Olivia Christie (NZL) 23 20 (25) 17 20 8 - 88 pts 71st: Annabelle Rennie-Younger (NZL) 27 (37) 36 37 28 37 - 166 pts