British pairing pull a fast one

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A win for John Merricks and Ian Walker in the Glenfiddich Melges 24 National Championship here yesterday could not have come at a better time.

The Olympic silver medal pair in the 470 go into the Admiral's Cup as the driving forces for Britain on Tim Barratt's Mumm 36 Bradamante next week and the boost of a national title is what any sports psychologist would want.

They were helped by their main rivals, the Americans Art Brereton and Tom Freytag, who tripped up in the final two races. The overnight leader, Brereton, was also leading the first race yesterday when he took a spinnaker hike towards Portland Harbour when most of the others, including Merricks and Walker, worked the centre of the track.

The Americans finished 11th as Merricks and Walker were second and prepared to deny their rivals a final chance. From three minutes before the start of the eighth and last race Merricks clamped on to Brereton's stern and chased him down the line on port tack, towards the committee boat and an advancing pack of competitors who had right of way.

Brereton had to swing on to the starboard tack, Merricks tacked underneath him, pushed him up and the American's bow was spotted 18 inches over the start line before the gun went. He had to go back round the committee boat to restart a long way last as Merricks and Walker tramped off up the course, survived yet another wobble in the patchy six to eight knot southerly breeze and finished comfortably ahead.