Sailing: Admiral's Cup team beset by dithering: British challengers in doldrums

 

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The Independent Online

The disarray at the top of British sailing, exacerbated by dithering and diversion among both organisers and participants, continues with uncertainty still surrounding this year's Admiral's Cup team.

While the Solent can still host what is the only remaining credible international team event of grand prix quality, it has so far not been able to muster the three boats required, a 50- footer, a 45ft two-tonner, and a 40ft one-tonner. Opponents from France, Italy and Japan are nearly ready before the British have sailed a single practice race with 12 weeks remaining before the cup takes place.

Only the big boat, Graham Walker's Indulgence, is in place and even he has been miffed about being taken for granted, preferring to run things his way rather than be managed by the Royal Ocean Racing Club, which also runs the event.

It had been thought that the small- boat place would definitely be filled by a Turkish-owned one-tonner, Turkish Express, which was campaigned to third place at the 1991 One Ton Cup in Nieuwpoort, Belgium, as Port Pendennis by Lawrie Smith.

This week its designer, Ed Dubois, is in Turkey for, among other things, talks with an owner who is now less inclined to campaign the boat at the One Ton World Championship in Cagliari, Sardinia, next month.

In his turn the man who would charter it for Britain, Peter Morton, is less keen to take on a cold boat against others which will be tuned up and hot. It may also leave him with the whole bill for bringing the yacht over, upgrading the sail suit and tuning it up.

A long-time sailing partner of Walker's, Morton is in London this week to hold talks with Don Wood about finding a mid-size, 45ft two- tonner. This would be the third boat in Britain's challenge to win back the cup from the holders, France, against strong opposition from Italy, Ireland and Japan.

'Don is very supportive, very committed,' Morton said yesterday. 'The three of us will do it together and we are negotiating on all fronts to see we have the best possible team.

'As far as some of the senior crew slots are concerned, we think Stuart Childerley will be with us and Glyn Charles. There is still plenty of time and we don't want second-rate boats when first-rate boats are available.'

Also in the Doldrums are the 10 yachts of the British Steel Challenge with Peter Phillips, the skipper of Rhone-Poulenc, reporting 'all in all a terrible day. Weather awful, torrential rain, very hot, no wind and down below almost unbearable. All day we hardly moved and in one period of seven hours covered only 12 miles.'

John Chittenden, the overall leader on Nuclear Electric, thought he may have cleared the Doldrums, or rather the Doldrums had cleared him, ie, moved south. 'If this is the case our passage through the Doldrums has been a very, very easy one,' he said.

BRITISH STEEL CHALLENGE Fourth leg (Cape Town to Southampton) Positions with miles to the finish as estimated by BT Results Service: 1 Commercial Union 2,804; 2 Nuclear Electric 2,842; 3 Group 4 2,854; 4 British Steel II 2,882; 5 Rhone-Poulenc 2,895; 6 Pride of Teesside 2,909; 7 Coopers & Lybrand 2,940; 8 Interspray 2,951; 9 Hofbrau 2,971; 10 Heath Insured 3,023.

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