Cudmore enjoys the calm

A stormy Admiral's Cup begins today. Stuart Alexander reports from Cowes
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The Independent Online
Amid a storm of pre-match nerves and a flurry of accusations, the British team for the Champagne Mumm Admiral's Cup was almost serenely calm in Cowes yesterday, venturing out only for a helicopter photo-shoot before attending various briefings, tidying up their three yachts and letting the others work themelves into a lather before today's racing.

One bone of contention was the decision by the jury to allow South Africa to make a last-minute substitution of their 40-foot boat, bringing in Thomas Friese's Omen for Sansui Express. Friese, whose Mumm 36, Thomas I Punkt, is part of the German team, saw no problem with making life a little tougher for for his team-mates on the German 40, Anemos.

"If we are to win the cup then Anemos would have to beat all the others anyway," he said. "We offered Omen to Daimler-Benz [sponsors of Anemos], but they refused."

Asked whether he had lent, chartered or sold his boat to the South Africans Friese said: "I don't know, you will have to ask the South Africans." But Ellian Perch, who had asked to make the substitution because his boat had been damaged when blown off its cradle months ago, said: "That's not for discussion. I don't have to apologise. I can change boats whenever I like until the end of today."

In the last Admiral's Cup, the Irish were refused permission to replace their 40-footer when it sank, ironically with another boat called Omen and owned by Thomas Friese, and the Italians were not allowed to replace their 50-footer, Mandrake, after wrecking the bow in a crash, so there was a lot of muttering yesterday. But both those accidents had occured after the event had begun and were self-inflicted, perhaps enough of a difference as far as the jury was concerned.

Friese, who was banned from international competition after being found guilty of cheating in the 1987 Admiral's Cup, was at the centre of the day's second controversy when he questioned the validity of the Italian 40, BravaQ8's measurement rating.

Brava's owner, Pasquale Landolfi, was particularly incensed as he is chairman of the international class association and had had his boat measured in the presence of Ken Weller, chief measurer of the Offshore racing Council, and Nicola Sironi, chairman of the International Technical Committee.

In marked contrast to all this stood Harry Cudmore, the skipper of the British 40, Group 4 Seahorse Astro. Of the South African rumpus, he said simply: "I'm not against them being given a sporting chance, although it makes life tougher for us."

And on the British chances overall? "We have a very serious effort, albeit late, and we intend to produce a serious result.

"It's for certain it will be very hard to win with so many top of the line sailors, the most modest of which you are likely to find has an Olympic medal.

"It is inconceivable that Britain would not be in the game and not represented well. As a result of the Group 4 team sponsorship we start level, with some new sails and, as far as the 40 is concerned, I am impressed with the way the crew has come together so well."