Cup is held on steady course

Sailing
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The Independent Online
While crews were busy making last-minute preparations for the 605-mile Fastnet Race, which starts today, the British were having to scout around for a replacement helmsman on their 40-footer, Group 4Astro. Andrew Hurst comes in for Andy Beadsworth, who has torn tendons in his right ankle.

This is the second time that Hurst has stepped into the breach. In 1991, he replaced Lawrie Smith on Britain's Port Pendennis.

Earlier their masters in the Champagne Mumm Admiral's Cup were taking a "steady as she goes" position at a meeting held by the Royal Ocean Racing Club to dicsuss the future of the event.

Practically no opportunities were taken to improve the Cup - commodore John Bourke said that everyone was very pleased and happy. The Mumm 36 will again be the small boat in 1997, and the ILC40, where different designs race without a handicap system, will still be the middle-size boat. The big boat will be the same size as at present but will be an ILC46, and these, too, would race level, with no handicap allowances being made.

But, in a move which would both reduce even further any close-quarter racing and increase the chance of uneven wind conditions turning a race into a lottery, consideration was being given to lengthening the legs of the inshore races.

As the Cup has been struggling to boost the number of countries participating, thought has been given to extending the device, introduced this year, whereby a team could represent a region. Scandinavia's team this year is made up of one boat each from Denmark, Norway and Sweden and other similar groups could emerge.

The Fastnet will remain part of the event for all three categories of boat, even though doubts have been expressed about the demands being made on the crews of the small boats. As this year's Fastnet may not be one of the most difficult on record it is likely that by next Thursday the organisers will be asking what all the fuss was about.

The 24 Admiral's Cup boats form just 10 per cent of the total of 241 who will leave the Solent at 5.30pm today. Chasing further glory will be the clutch of maxis all hoping finally to break the record of two days 12 hours, 41 minutes and 15 seconds set by the American Marvin Green in 1983 in the maxi Nirvana, which is racing again this year.

All may be cheered to hear a forecast which may allow them to start under spinnaker in a south-easterly, pick up more of a southerly to reach under a spinnaker to the rock and then see the wind move more into the west to bring them home past the Scillies to Plymouth.

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