Fastnet fleet stewing on back burner

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The high pressure cooker in the Channel was keeping the 242 boats in the 1995 Fastnet Race on slow broil yesterday, after keeping them on the back burner overnight.

The spinnaker exit from the Solent on Saturday was a pleasant change from the majority of occasions when crews, especially foredeck hands, cross the line already soaked and starting to chill - not the best way to begin a 605-mile slog.

But too little wind can be as frightening as too much. The majority of the fleet found itself parked overnight, the westerly ebb tide having run its course, the easterly flood threatening to bring them back to the Solent, and too little wind to make progress.

By breakfast yesterday, the majority still had not rounded Start Point at the western end of Lyme Bay, by lunch they were only a few miles further on, and the next six hours produced just 17 miles of gain. That meant, as she has the lowest handicap of the big boats, Britain's Group 4 Seahorse, skippered by Robin Aisher, found herself in the unusual position of leading, but knowing that as soon as any breeze settled in the race would restart.

The positions put the American big boat, Bob Towse's Blue Yankee, five places behind Italy's Capricorno and the Italians need to be at least two places per boat ahead of the Americans if they are to threaten their lead.

The American 40, David Clarke's Pigs in Space, which had hurriedly been given some keel reinforcement before the start, was three places behind Italy's BravaQ8, and only Italy's 36-foot Mumm a Mia! was trailing America's No Problem by one place.

The British 40, Group 4 Astro, with Andrew Hurst aboard as a last-minute replacement for Andrew Beadsworth, was placed seventh, and the Mike Golding skippered Mumm 36, Group 4 was fifth. Beadsworth has been told that the torn ligaments in his left ankle could take six to eight weeks to heal. In two weeks he goes to Canada for a Soling regatta, and on the 27th he begins the selection trials for the 1996 Olympics.

As expected, the navigator Jeremy Gordon Walker had taken Ludde Ingvall's sub-maxi Nicorette further south in the search for wind. She had rounded the Lizard yesterday afternoon, with the Whitbread 60 Corum Meteorite chasing her along the shore. Neither, however, has any hope left of beating the record of two days, 12 hours, 41 minutes, 15 seconds set by the American maxi Nirvana in 1983.

The was also little breeze on Ullswater for the 11th qualifying heat of the BT National Match Racing Championship. Scottish contenders dominated, with Neil McLellan of Edinburgh University Sailing Club winning. Emma Richards, also of Helensburgh but studying at Glasgow University, was second.