Slick start by Green leaves Spithill trailing

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The Independent Online

The campaign of 2000 could not have started better for Britain's Andy Green as he drilled home three slick wins in the Steinlager Cup here yesterday. The 26-year old defeated Sweden's Bjorn Hansen in his opening foray of an eight-regatta Swedish Match Grand Prix series that will take him from Australasia through Europe and the Caribbean.

For a finale he left a local youngster, Phil Douglas, trailing in his wake, but it was the scalp in the middle that gave him the greatest pleasure. He was up against Sydney's newcomer James Spithill, one of a number of young skippers taking over the top slots on the world scene. Sydney's new sailing hero had acquitted himself impressively at the helm of the Young Australia America's Cup challenge.

But Green, who has ambitions to lead a future British challenge for the America's Cup, used the tide and his starboard entry advantage to drive Spithill away from the start line, held on until the last moment before powering back the shorter distance to take a clear advantage at the gun and then put his opponent to the sword in classic fashion up the first leg. After that he never gave Spithill the chance to retaliate.

It was impressive racing from Green in the 16-strong field on a day that required subtlety and skill in the light and fickle winds. The defeat was the second for Spithill, who first had to contend with New Zealand's man of the moment, Dean Barker, to whom Russell Coutts had handed the helm for the fifth race against Italy's Prada which secured the defence of the America's Cup.

Barker made mincemeat of Spithill and joined Green on three wins in the second group of eight, who sail two round-robins to find four semi-finalists.

The only unbeaten man in Group One was Gavin Brady, filling in for the absent holder of the title, Paul Cayard, skipper of the AmericaOne syndicate which fought out the final of the Louis Vuitton Cup with Prada.

But showing all his old sharpness was another famous Kiwi, Chris Dickson, already pumped up after winning his country's Olympic selection in the Tornado catamaran. He dealt smoothly with his first two opponents, an out-of-form Peter Gilmour, who is still racing for Japan, and an outclassed Jes Gram-Hansen of Denmark. But even the old maestro fell foul of the shifty winds and tide as Germany's Markus Wieser came from behind to add a second win to one taken from Peter Holmberg of the US Virgin Islands.

SWEDISH MATCH TOUR (Auckland, NZ) Line 7 Cup (First event on tour): 1 G Brady (NZ) 3 wins 0 losses; 2 D Barker (NZ) 3 0; 3 A Green (GB) 3 0; 4 M Weiser (Ger) 2 1; 5 B Pace (Fr) 2 1; 6 C Dickson (NZ) 2 1; 7 C Appleton (NZ) 2 1; 8 P Gilmour (Japan) 1 2; 9 J Gram-Hansen (Den) 1 2; 10 P Holmberg (US Virgin Islands) 1 2; 11 M Holmberg (Swe) 1 2; 12 P Douglas (NZ) 1 2; 13 B Hansen (Swe) 1 2; 14 J Spithill (Aus) 1 2; 15 L Pillot (Fr) 0 3; 16 L Nordbjerg (Den) 0 3.