Sailing: Australians win Admiral's Cup

The Admiral's Cup is on its way to Sydney, Australia, after a dramatic last-race tussle with the Spanish. Yesterday, the two boats representing the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club could concentrate on celebrating a well-structured win, their third since the biennial event began in 1957.

They had started the long, final race down the Channel and back to Cowes one point behind the Galician pair led by the King Juan Carlos of Spain.

The smaller of the two Sangenjo club boats, with the former America's Cup skipper Pedro Campos in charge, won its class again, but the 55ft Bribon, having scored seven wins and a second in the first eight races, slumped to fifth, and that decided the championship.

Importantly, however, Campos had earlier been disqualified from a race after a protest by the Royal Southern's Andy Beadsworth. The extra points were more than the final, seven-point deficit. It was a costly error.

Avoiding errors had been one of the guiding principles of an Australian team which had brought the unconventional in terms of its big boat - the 60-footer Wild Oats with a swinging keel and twin rudders - and the straight-as-a-die approach of a 40-footer, Aftershock, led by Colin Beashel who could always dig himself out of trouble if he had to and looked a click above the rest when he needed to.

The fall from grace at the end was put down by Bribon's tactician, Eddie Warden Owen, to a lack of edge on the long, downwind run home from the Wolf Rock Light, when Wild Oats was romping away at high speed and the three Farr 52s, each representing a separate English club, were also surfing merrily.

The Australian owner of Wild Oats, Bob Oatley, was jubilant. "To win it on the last race, in a pretty convincing fashion, and to be top boat of the Regatta is really spectacular,'' he said. The helmsman Mark Richards added: "We are ecstatic, ecstatic. Australia hasn't won the Admiral's Cup since 1979 and this is a fantastic thing."

Oatley says he would definitely be back to defend, but what and where is yet unknown. Much consultation is taking place against a background of knowing that the choice of boats was probably wrong, the venue may be changed, and there will be internal struggles over ambitions to return the event to full professional status.

Win or lose, King Juan Carlos has already said that Galicia would like to host in 2005 and the organising Royal Ocean Racing Club is saying, either genuinely or for political reasons, that it wants to consider other venues than Cowes. At least the show is on the road again.

ADMIRAL'S CUP Final standings: 1 Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club (Aus) 56pts; 2 Real Club Nautico de Sangenjo (Sp) 63; 3 Royal Ocean Racing Club (GB) 76; 4 Royal Southern Yacht Club (GB) 110; 5 Royal Thames Yacht Club (GB) 147; 6 Union Nationale Pourles Courses au Large (Fr) 157; 7 Real Club Nautico de Vigo (Sp) 162; 8 Cowes Corinthian Yacht Club (GB) 179.

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