Boardsailoring: Boardsailors beached on an opening day of ill wind: Stuart Alexander reports on a false start to Brighton's World Cup on waves

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AFTER a three-year absence, the professional boardsailing circuit, based here but better supported almost everywhere else in the world, is back in Britain this week, dominating the central beach area of Brighton.

The Brighton event is a third- rated, so-called sanctioned event, as opposed to a grand prix, where prize money is dollars 100,000 ( pounds 54,000) for a single event, or grand slam, with a minimum of dollars 180,000 for three events. The dollars 50,000 on offer for Brighton's leg of the Professional Boardsailing Association World Cup also carries points towards the World Series total.

A slalom course, between the two piers, is the only discipline as there was either not enough money or the appropriate conditions to stage an additional course race series or the trickier wave performance competitions.

Yesterday there was not even a slalom race as the fine weather meant there was less than the required minimum wind strength of 12 knots. In contrast to the flowery programme descriptions of the sponsor, Skinscents, the smells are more of honest sweat and rubber wetsuits in a series which takes in 25 venues around the world, including indoor and long-distance events.

Some of the leading competitors are missing in Brighton, but the world No 2, Sweden's Anders Bringdal, is the top men's seed with the local man, Nik Baker, of Shoreham, ranked fourth of the 57 men, attending. The Hawaiians are the favourites.

The event has attracted Britain's Olympic boardsailing representive, Barrie Edgington for his first outing in PBA competition, but the women's field of just 14, although there would normally be 32 places, is disappointing despite including British national champion, Penny Tyler.

'There are heaps more British women who could have done this but, unfortunately, there was a rumour you had to be selected,' Britain's Christine Spreiter said yesterday.

A 28-year-old Scot, who is a qualified vet but is 18 months into an attempt to make a living from professional boardsailing, Spreiter is typical of the competitors struggling to cross the line into the league of big-sponsor support.

'By not spending too much, I get by, just, but it's a problem for most people,' she said. She and Stephanie Roche, of France, ranked 15th and 14th respectively in 1991, are the two leading women in Brighton, where the women's fleet is given only 20 per cent of the prize money.

'With bigger fleets the standard would be higher and we could ask for a higher percentage of the prize money,' Spreiter said.

'But I really enjoy it, and although it can be boring sitting on the beach in the middle of nowhere, or disheartening when struggling with 250 kilograms of boards and kit, the good times are tremendous and if you enjoy the sport there's nothing like being able to do it all the time.'

(Photograph omitted)