Great Britain’s powerful Sonar trio has stormed back into contention – but Australia remains the frontrunner after a gruelling day three of sailing in the Paralympic regatta on Guanabara Bay in Rio.

The British crew asserted their credentials in what is shaping as a thrilling battle with a first placing in each of the three races, catapulting the 2015 World Champions into fifth overall after a surprisingly poor start to their campaign. The Australian crew of Jon Harris, Russell Boaden and Colin Harrison registered two second placings and a seventh, keeping their noses ahead of the US crew, who gained a second and two thirds.

No less tense is the contest in the single person 2.4mR class, where Matt Bugg relished the blustery conditions to claim a first, third and fifth to edge him up from third to second overall, behind defending Paralympic champion Helena Lucas, of Great Britain.

“It was a good confidence-building day for me,” Bugg said afterwards.

“It was very windy when we got out there, right on the limit of being too windy. It’s not always the most comfortable sailing, but I always tend to go pretty fast in it. In the first couple of races I was pretty quick and probably should have won them both, but I got a third and a first. In the final race the wind sort up went up in the air and it was a bit of a lottery.

“I was never really out of the top three, apart from the last 10 seconds of the final race, unfortunately. That in a Paralympic fleet is pretty cool and pretty hard to do. I’m very happy with today but it was certainly a long day and it’s taken a lot out of me.”

Also feeling the strain of a long day on the water was the Skud pairing of Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch, who put on a clinic for their opponents with two first placings and a second. The strong results extend the defending gold medallists’ overall lead to eight points.

“An incredibly hard day, three races, a really large breeze – really a lot of wind – a lot of waves. It was really difficult today,” Fitzgibbon said.

“It’s a test of endurance – in sailing we get everything, that’s why we love it.”

Asked about the secret to their ability to adapt, Fitzgibbon said: “It’s all about experience. We’ve done it before, learnt a lot from being in conditions like that before. We’ve got to keep going at it.”