Sailing: Britain breeze to pole position

Click to follow
The Independent Online
A HARD day's night was in store for the Champagne Mumm Admirals Cup crews yesterday as they began a 36 hour, 225-mile slog down and up the south coast.

There was an air of grudging reluctance to leave their berths just after lunch and line up for a beat into the 12 to 15 knot breeze just south of west, but there was no shortage of typical cut and thrust as they zig- zag tacked their way westwards close to the Isle of Wight shore. Gear- changing between medium heavy number one and number three headsails kept foredeck men busy.

The first leg to keep them cold and damp on the windward rail was nearly 60 miles to the East Shambles buoy off Portland Bill, but however many fillings had been rattled on the upwind way, they would rather that than no wind at all. A big softening-off was a real possibility.

The Royal Ocean Racing Club management was ready to shorten the course at any one of several points as the fleet returned up-channel. With every place in each of three classes costing 2.5 points, that is a serious chunk from the total of 12 on offer from eight races. Britain was leading the nine-team event, though the French are running only two boats by just 5.5 points over the defending champions, the United States, with the Netherlands and Germany also within 10 points. And well in the hunt are the two rival teams from Italy: the pre-start favourites, Europe, just pipping their home rivals on Italy.

On their own home water, the Chernikeeff team did not look like England's glory in the opening tussle. The Dutch, on Innovision and the Italian- Kiwi line-up on Brava, sailing for Europe, were in front by the time the big boats reached the Needles. But they had been shown the way by Jo Richards and Graham Deegan, sailing for Peter Harrison, sponsor of the British team but competing against them under a Commonwealth flag in his own boat, also named Chernikeeff.

Nor were things much better in the Sydney 40s, where a dour Chris Law was struggling in sixth at the Needles in Nautica, as were the boys on the Mumm 36 Barlo Plastics.

Stevie Benjamin on America's Blue Yankee was leading the 40s, Tony Gale had a handy lead for Germany on the 36ft Jeantex.

n Vincenzo Onorato has replaced Enrico Chieffi, skipper of Europe's 36- footer Moby Lines, with the 1986 America's Cup skipper Mauro Pelaschier after a dispute.