Mean Machine into first place

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The Independent Online

A third win in four races, this time scoring double points, catapulted Peter de Ridder and his Dutch Mean Machine team up to first place from fifth overall after the two halves of the 25-mile coastal race of the opening Audi Medcup grand prix yesterday.

De Ridder, who a year ago had his eyes on a Volvo round the world race, did not have everything his own way, but in tricky conditions he and his America's Cup tacticians, Ray Davies and Kevin Hall, picked their way through the minefield. They were just ahead at the end of the first half, banked those points, and then came from behind to score an impressive win in the second half.

It gave them a one-point margin over the American boat Quantum, skippered by Terry Hutchinson, and that gave him a three-point, two place cushion over the man for whom he called tactics on Team New Zealand in the America's Cup last year, Dean Barker.

With the boss, King Juan Carlos, expected to be on board Bribon today, Barker, who led the regatta until yesterday but slipped to fourth, will be especially eager to make up the deficit on both Hutchinson and de Ridder in his first year filling the shoes of Bouwe Bekking, watching proceedings from his new role as team and sports director of Spain's double entry in the Volvo, which starts from this city in October.

Going into the fifth day and with 1,860 miles to run, Sebastien Josse extended his lead in the Artemis singlehanded race from Plymouth to Boston to 28 miles in his open 60 BT over Loick Peyron in Gitana 80, who is looking for his third victory in the 48-year old event.

Vincent Riou was a further eight miles behind in PRB while Sam Davies, in Roxy, was holding seventh place but fretting over a corroded radar, which mean she cannot 'see' shipping or ice.

But she was unpressured by the man chasing her, Marc Guillemot, in Safran, who is hampered by a rib injury which is both painful and restrictive.

Dee Caffari, in Aviva, was 255 miles behind BT, but up one to 11th place as the fleet of 13 prepares for a 36-hour blackout of information about the position and course of their rivals and increased reliance on individual tactics.

A strong push over the previous 24 hours saw Miranda Merron move her 40 Degrees up to third place in the 11-strong 40-foot class just 34 miles behind the leader, Italy's Giovanni Soldini in Telecom Italia, and just 17 behind the 27-year old Boris Hermann of Germany in Beluga Racer.

John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas in the Sonar, along with Nicki Birrell and Alex Rickham in the Skud, both won gold at the Paralympic test event in Qingdao. Helena Lucas in the 2.4mR was fourth.

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