Sailing: Americans suffer a slow start

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The Independent Online
Light conditions made for slow progress in the first 24 hours of the Fastnet Race for the seven three-boat teams in the Admiral's Cup as they covered just over 100 miles.

With all to play for, the Italians were making their expected charge, the British were featuring strongly and both the leading Americans and chasing New Zealanders were struggling. All were expected to round the Lizard yesterday evening.

The race had started in a sparkling Solent sea breeze on Saturday but as the fleet, swelled by more than 200 club racers, nine Whitbread boats, seven maxis and a clutch of debutant multihulls, headed out into the Channel everyone was waiting for the breeze to die.

They covered a meagre 45 miles in the first 14 hours and many could not make it past the strong tidal gate at Portland Bill. To add to the difficulties there was thick fog, so no one could see what their opponents were doing, and anchor drill became the order of the night.

Yesterday brought sunshine, a 12-knot easterly and spinnakers to speed them towards the bleak rock, 350 miles away. The forecast then was for south-westerlies and a fast run back to Plymouth.

The Whitbread 60s were being led by Lawrie Smith's Silk Cut with Grant Dalton's Merit Cup, Chris Dickson's Toshiba, and Paul Cayard's EF Language just astern.