In a light breeze off the sun-baked Adriatic coastline, consistency was the order of the day as Chris Bake’s eight-man yacht took a second, a third, a fifth and a sixth, while nearest rival Ceeref - the Slovenian boat which had led at the halfway point on Saturday - weakened as the day went on, recording a second, a fourth, an eighth and a 12th.
Ceeref’s slump was not aided by a penalty turn for crossing the start line early in the final race of the day, with another British-owned team, John Bassadone’s Peninsula Petroleum, sneaking into second place overall after three excellent victories and a 12th.
Aqua lies on 45 points with up to four races scheduled for Sunday’s finale, while Peninsula Petroleum sits nine points behind, one ahead of the Slovenians.
“It’s a tough fleet, very competitive, and if you make one mistake the guys will make you pay,” Aqua tactician, former America’s Cup winner Cameron Appleton, told Eurosport after the final day's race.
“There’s no love out there, and no-one will let you past. We suffered yesterday but we dug deep when we had to. We have some great characters.
“We were a lot more relaxed today and we’re in a great position now.”
The RC44 class is a relatively recent addition to ISAF’s repertoire, the eight-person keelboats having been designed in 2005 by four-times America’s Cup winner and 1984 Olympic gold medallist Russell Coutts, launched in 2007, and formally accepted by sailing’s governing body in 2009.
Aqua - with three Britons, two New Zealanders, two Americans and a Dane on board - had entered the fifth and final regatta of the series with a commanding lead atop the standings, which was consolidated after a strong opening session of the four-day fleet racing event. Wednesday was taken up by a match racing championship, won by Russia’s Synergy.
But a poor 14th on Friday and some good performances from the Slovenians - including two seconds and a third - saw the British outfit slip to second overall after race one on Saturday, five points adrift and apparently struggling.
That did not last long as, in an incident-packed race three, Bake and Appleton kept ahead of the pack as Peninsula Petroleum blazed a trail to victory.
There was also some drama when a guest passenger fell overboard Austria’s AEZ after a dangerous move from Team Aegir, for which the British boat was penalised. It later transpired the guest - who are allowed provided all boats in the race have one additional non-competing passenger - was the wife of tactician Markus Wieser. She was unhurt despite having been knocked off by a bow pole.
Back to the front of the fleet and Peninsula Petroleum was well clear for a comfortable victory, with the remaining major placings a gunfight between four Russian boats, Aqua and Sweden’s Artemis, with the British boat snatching second at the finish.
Most importantly though Ceeref was stranded back in eighth, and things got even worse for Igor Lah’s boat in the final race of the day, as a risky manoeuvre at the start saw it cross the line early, leading to a penalty turn and a 12th-placed finish.
Aqua had already stolen a march in the overall standings, extended further after coming third behind Peninsula Petroleum and AEZ in a less eventful race.
With confidence returned and more good conditions predicted, maintaining consistency should be enough for a maiden world title for Aqua, although Peninsula Petroleum’s newfound winning touch means it is not a foregone conclusion, while Ceeref is not out of contention by any means.
Sunday’s action starts at 10.00 am UK time, while the last race must not start after 2pm. All racing is conditions dependent.
RC44 World Championship standings (one day remaining):
1. Team Aqua (GBR) - 45 points
2. Peninsula Petroleum (GBR) - 54
3. Team Ceeref (Slo) - 55
4. Katusha (Rus) - 64
5. Artemis Racing (Swe) - 64
6. Synergy (Rus) - 69
7. Team Nika (Rus) - 75
8. AEZ Sailing (Aut) - 86
9 .No Way Back (Ned) - 89
10. Rus-7 Sailing (Rus) - 90
11. Ironbound (USA) - 99
12. AFX Capital (Ita) - 102
13. Aleph Sailing (Fra) - 102
14. MAG Racing (Pol) - 106
15. Aegir Racing (GBR) - 107