Britain left becalmed in race for the Admiral's Cup

Hugh Bateson watched the Group 4 team's day of misery in the Solent
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The Independent Online
If you want to watch the British in the Champagne Mumm Admiral's Cup you need a very big pair of binoculars. The island race is finding life tough in the Isle of Wight races. Their three-boat team managed two eighths and a fifth place yesterday. Or, to put it another way, two lasts and a fourth from last. Overall, they are trailing in the wake of that maritime giant Hong Kong.

At the start of play yesterday, the Solent was as a flat as anything the Old Trafford groundsman has produced, and it took four hours before a gentle breeze gave it as many bumps as Edgbaston - and the home side did just as well on it.

Of Britain's three boats, it is the smallest, the Mumm 36 Group 4 skippered by the single-handed round the world sailor Mike Golding, which should be the best prepared, as she has had a lengthy build-up campaign and a budget to match. None of which did her any good at the start, when she chose to go to the right of the course while most of the rest went left.

For a few minutes this looked a glorious choice, but when, 15 minutes later, the leaders approached the first mark, one and a half miles away, Group 4 was a full five minutes adrift and condemned to spend the rest of the race looking at her rivals' sterns. A lingering death on the ocean waves.

It was at the first mark that things also went badly wrong for Group 4's biggest team-mate, Group 4 Seahorse. This is not the boat's real name. She is actually an old German cast-off acquired for the campaign by the British team, called Rubin, or in the waterfront jargon, Dobbin.

Dobbin may be more selling plater than Derby winner, but her class's complicated handicap system gives her at least a chance of competing on level terms. Her rounding of the mark did not.

Experts came out with comments like "messed up a gybe-set". But to the layman, it was a glorious cock-up, as the spinnaker flapped as effectively as England's rugby players did at Jonah Lomu, and the boat rolled to a complete halt before heading off at 90 degrees to the rest of the fleet. Britain's second last place of the day was assured.

Which left the middle boat, Group 4 Astro, to save some face. Fifth out of eight did not set Cowes cheering too loudly.