Henderson asks for new Olympic dates

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The Independent Online

Jacques Rogge, the International Olympic Committee president who represented Belgium three times at the Olympics in the singlehanded Finn sailing dinghy, has been asked by the International Sailing Federation's President, Paul Henderson, who also sailed the Finn for Canada, to change the dates of the 2008 Games, just awarded to China.

Rogge himself could not raise such an issue so soon after succeeding Juan Antonio Samaranch, who approved the decision. But, with a sport raising the issue, the matter will now be open to debate.

The objection to the July dates proposed by China are that they fall during the most unstable weather patterns of the year. The statistics for the sailing venue of Qingdoa, on the Pacific coast, show an average of 12 knots of wind for that time of year, which sounds satisfactory. But the average is calculated from a mix of very calm periods alternating with full-blown gales. July is also one of the wettest months of the year.

Meanwhile, the Royal Yachting Association, bolstered by a four-year renewal of a £1.5m a year grant from Lottery funds, has been quick to secure the best base possible in Athens for 2004. They have reached agreement with the ENOA Yacht Club, just a few hundred metres from the racing area south of Athens, for that club's facilities to be their base from next month.

In the fog of the Grand Banks and with 1,000 miles to the finish of the third leg of the EDS Atlantic Challenge from Portsmouth to Baltimore, Ellen MacArthur in Kingfisher has at last overhauled Roland Jourdain's Sill, skippered by Gael Le Cleac'h, to take the lead.

In the Tour de France à la Voile, which ends this weekend near Cannes, the British University Sailing Team, skippered by Simon Shaw, has taken the lead in the student division and lies ninth overall.