Favourable conditions help French force their way to the top

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The Independent Online

A classic western Solent day saw the defending French again throw down the gauntlet in the Rolex Commodores' Cup with a mixture of tidal and wind tests for crews which at times looked a little short of match practice. The crowded programme for the rest of the week should see improvements in leaps and bounds.

Quite why the opening pair of inshore races were delayed so long as a first class racing breeze - 15 knots of south-westerly - was establishing itself was a mystery to many of the competitors. The organising Royal Ocean Racing Club's chief executive, Eddie Warden Owen, had promised great conditions for the 45 boats in 15 three-boat teams from six countries and the wind gods duly delivered.

What was even more predictable was a long night for the international jury as there were nearly as many protest pennants appearing on the backs of the boats as there were compulsory sponsor's flags.

There was also an ebbing tide to swoosh the fleet upwind as they headed west and then the opportunity to play chicken with the shallows and traps off the Beaulieu River on the way back east.

Mark roundings were accompanied by much yelling and complaint but it was the defending French who forced their way to the top overall at the end of the first race as seasoned campaigner Gery Trentesaux won the big boat division in the 45-foot Lady Courrier, chased home by Ireland's Anthony O'Leary's Silk Glove, with Rob Greenhalgh as tactician, and Britain's John Dean in Poppy.

Another Irish boat, Eamonn Rohan's Blondie IV, headed the middle boat list with Kees Kann of the Netherlands second in ROARK and Jerry Otter in Erivale again keeping Britain in the hunt.

It was one of the RORC's former commodores, Peter Rutter, who put Britain on top in the small boat division with Quokka 7, with France's Marc Alperovitch second in Prime Time and Dutchman Frank Plicky third in Slainte.

When the computer had done its work, one of Britain's four teams, Red, was equal on points with France Blue while Ireland Green took the third place on the leaders' podium.

The second race saw a change in the in the wind direction towards the south and a change of tide as the Solent began to flood again. The quick made the early decision to head right to the mainland shore, whilst the majority soon responded and the ones at the back were dead.

Trentesaux chalked up his second win in the big boats, ROARK went one better in the middle class and Slainte came through to head the small boats. All of which left the French blue team still leading, but by only half a point from Ireland Green and GBR Red three And a half points further back in third.