Olympians come to the rescue

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Three of Britain's latest Olympic silver medallists were out on the Solent yesterday, two trying to lift the profile of Nick Griffiths' and Tim Robinson's 25-foot Australian sportsboat Big Trousers, the third acting as tactician on a Melges 24.

In addition, one of the most enthusiastic supporters of big-boat racing, the London property multi-millionaire Mike Slade, escaped from being knocked overboard when the crew of his 84-foot Longobarda pulled off perfect recovery just 12 minutes before the start of the New York Yacht Club Challenge Cup.

Slade's plunge was almost as impressive. "When the boat switched direction, I was hit on the leg by the sail and must have been knocked 20 feet into the air," he said. " I think I also did a back flip and a somersault before hitting the water."

Slade was denied his second prestige trophy of the week, as they were pipped by less than two minutes on handicap by Glynn Williams' 41-foot Wolf, helmed by the Whitbread skipper Matt Humphries, but he is determined to take the maxi boat prize for the week in the final encounter with Ludde Ingvall's Nicorette today.

Big Trousers had been lying 44th in a strongly supported class of 52, but the arrival of John Merricks and Ian Walker, who won silver in the Olympic 470s, made all the difference. She was eighth yesterday.

Ben Ainslie, second in the Laser at the Games, sailed with Paul Brotherton yesterday as tactician on Wolf Cub. The race went to Russell Peters, but the week is led by the national champion Mike Lennon with David Bedford's Glenfiddich 1 second.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 23