Sailing: Tough break for Star world champions as mast fails in Athens test event

All systems were at full stretch in the British Olympic sailing squad last night after the world champions in the Star class, Iain Percy and Steve Mitchell, broke their mast in the first of yesterday's two scheduled races.

The break occurred as the pair pushed hard downwind, trying to squeeze past the Bermudan sailor Peter Bromby, when the boat rolled as it was hit by a gust.

This is supposed to be a test event for the real thing next year, but it is one they could have done without. Not only did the mast, which broke just above the spreaders, need repairing, so did the mainsail it supported. But they aim to complete the remaining five races, even though the loss of two races, plus one earlier bad result, leaves them with no chance of a medal. They are not scheduled to race today.

While a dust haze hangs over the Greek capital - as a result of the frantic building programme for the Games - the unfinished sailing centre up the coast at Glyfada is fully operational and could stage an Olympic regatta next week.

Covering more than 32 acres, it is far too big, and will be turned into a commercial marina and national facility as soon as the 2004 Games are over.

Telephone communications are basic, but the race technology is working and the launch and recovery of the boats runs smoothly. The four race tracks are not easy and, when the wind is being bounced off the hills as it blows from the north offshore over the Bay of Saronico, there can be a lottery factor.

The best usually come through, but the British team always knew it had a tough job to match the three golds and two silvers it notched up in Sydney.

A further guide may come next month, when all the Olympic classes gather for their world championships in Cadiz, Spain, countries qualify for the Games, and the Royal Yachting Association tries to make as many team selections as possible. Percy and Mitchell will be happier to have their breakdowns now rather than then.

Comments