Sailing: Laser race is abandoned after false start recalls

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Sent home for the day in disgrace, the overeager guns of the biggest and most competitive fleet in Skandia Cowes Week, the Laser SB3s saw their race abandoned yesterday.

They were not happy and a delegation led by the class captain Nick Glanville and reigning national champion Colin Simonds had talks with the race managers. At their marina, others grumbled that a clear difficulty had been resolved in too draconian a way.

As the 89 boats jostled for a 50-yard stretch of the favoured end of an already short start line three cannons indicated that so many had started ahead of time they all had to restart. A repeat offence persuaded the race officer Malcolm McKeag to exercise his option to wield the guillotine, something which the event director Stuart Quarrie later queried. The delegation from the class said it was one recall too early. "With hindsight, I agreed with that," said Quarrie.

Proposals to resolve the problem include bringing their start forward by 20 minutes to allow for more recalls, black flag penalties which will mean disqualification, and moving the fleet away from the crowded line to a committee boat mid-Solent if a successful start is not achieved.

After a fleeting visit to Cowes followed by a flight back to Valencia for training with New Zealand's America's Cup squad, Ben Ainslie, who is regularly giving the TNZ skipper Dean Barker a hard time in practice races, revealed he will have only 10 days to re-acclimatise to the Olympic Finn class for the test regatta in China.

The reigning Olympic champion, with two years to go, may be more concerned with learning about the quirks of a very tricky track in Qingdao, as will a British squad that has seen some hasty reshuffles. Paralympic contender Helena Lucas stands in to helm the Yngling for the current gold medallist Shirley Robertson, who has just had twins, with crew Annie Lush and Lucy Macgregor.

Robertson's Athens crew of Sarah Ayton and Sarah Webb, competing in their own right for the 2008 place, have replaced Victoria Rawlinson with Katherine Hopson.

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