Merricks and Walker impressive in overcoming adversity

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In a stunning display of sailing John Merricks and Ian Walker, Britain's 470 representatives in the Olympics, overcame all kinds of adversity at the French Olympic Week regatta here yesterday, writes Stuart Alexander from Hyeres.

Kept ashore by high winds and suffering from food poisoning, Merricks was having treatment when an afternoon race was called. The boat was sailed to the course by the coach Derek Clark, Merricks following by fast boat.

They were fourth in the first race despite a bolt on the rudder working loose. Afterwards they lashed the still wobbly rudder together and led the second race from start to finish.

Andy Beadsworth, with crew Barry Parkin and Adrian Stead, edged closer to the top eight and a place in the Soling match race play-off yesterday. They were recalled for being over the line in the first race, but finished eighth and were sixth in the second race.

Any thoughts that next year's Whitbread Race may be joined by the Grand Mistral, which is struggling to achieve its start from Marseilles this September, were dashed by the race director, Ian Bailey-Willmot, yesterday. "The 1997/8 Whitbread Round the World race will be a single class event, sailed in Whitbread 60s," he said.

In La Ciotat, the last of the seven production Grand Mistral 80-footers has been moulded, but so far only two syndicates can proceed.