Sailing: Maximus victory on hold after surge of one of smallest boats

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The Independent Online

Another day on tenterhooks was the fate of the fastest boat round the 608 miles of the Rolex Fastnet Race yesterday as the New Zealand crew of the 100ft Maximus waited to see if victory would be snatched away by one of the smallest of the 283 starters.

The 31ft Aye!, an Elan 31 designed by Rob Humphreys and campaigned by Derek Copeman, an architect from West Sussex, was benefiting from a brisk westerly wind to drive her the 250 miles from the Fastnet Rock off south-west Ireland to the finish in Plymouth Sound. The light winds which had plagued all the top boats meant that, even though a big handicap penalty had raised Maximus' elapsed time from 2 days 20 hours to just over five days on corrected time, her main rivals had all been hit by bad luck at some time.

Paying for what was more bad judgement than bad luck, Jean-Pierre Dick, of France, who came through to win the 13-strong Open 60 class in Virbac, accepted a one-place penalty because he was given assistance soon after the start from Cowes in Sunday. He was towed off the shingle beach at Hurst Narrows.

That gave the win to Bernard Stamm, of Switzerland, with another Frenchman, Roland Jourdain, third in Sill and Mike Golding fourth in Ecover. The long-time Open 60 leader, Mike Sanderson, with Emma Richards in Pindar, had been knocked down to fifth by going north but said: "If we had to make the decision again it would be the same."

* The Olympic gold medallist Iain Percy and his crew Steve Mitchell won the Star European Championship in Varberg, Sweden, yesterday with a day to spare. The triple Olympic medallist Ben Ainslie added two more wins to the three he had already to give him five out of five at the Finn European Championship in Kalmar, Sweden.

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