Bad start for Cristabella

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The Independent Online

It was a less than happy day for John Cook and the crew of the British TP52 Cristabella as they suffered a keel entanglement with a lobster pot in the first of three races and did not finish.

Crewman Chris Dougall went over the side to cut the obstruction free. Then an early jump saw them recalled at the start of the third, though there was some compensation from a well-earned third in the second. But it was not the start they wanted.

The first day of racing proper was a spectacular affair, a breeze gusting over 20 knots made for an exciting ride and demanding manoeuvres, and making their mark were the combined forces of America's Cup challenge team BMW Oracle.

The Swedish boat Artemis, with a strong representation of Oracle crew was 12th as syndicate boss Larry Ellison was sixth, the first time the new USA 17 had raced in points scoring anger.Artemis won the second race as USA 17 improved a place to fifth and they then produced a one-two in the last race of the day as USA 17 dominated.

It was the Argentinian boat Matador, owned, but not sailed in Marseille, by the 81-year old Alberto Roemmers that went into the clubhouse leading courtesy of two seconds and a seventh. Ellison, helped by some helming by the Australian James Spithill and tactics from his skipper and team ceo Russell Couts was second, just one point adrift and ahead of third-placed Bribon, skippered by Dean Barker, on countback.

Fourth was Artemis as the boat setting the pace from the opening regatta in Alicante, Peter de Ridder's Mean Machine from The Netherlands, suffered its own second race setback and had to count a 14th and last because of having to do a penalty turn after an incident with the Italian Riccardo Simoneschi in Audi Q8. Of course, Mean Machine protested the decision.

Completing the top six was Terry Hutchinson, 12th in the last race after, like Cristabella, being recalled for a premature start.

With similar to even stronger Mistral conditions forecast for today the fight at the top will be matched by a fight for survival as these powerful boats are sailed on the edge of their range.