Sailing: Britain stay on even keel despite US protest

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GREAT BRITAIN'S Admiral's Cup team started with a slender lead but ended yesterday sharing it with the Netherlands after the big boat decided to retire from the second race rather than face a protest from the Americans. Venture 99, skippered by Lawrie Smith, had rammed her American counterpart, Idler, in the second of two races and caused considerable damage.

It could have been worse if, instead, they had been disqualified. The three extra points that Smith incurred left Britain and the Dutch one point ahead of Europe going into tomorrow's deciding 400-mile final Wolf Rock race.

The British mid-sized boat, Nautica Arbitrator, with Chris Law and Graham Bailey in charge, dropped its spinnaker in the water where it wrapped around the keel, bringing the craft to a grinding halt.

Nautica trailed to seventh in the first race sailed in the western Solent in a breeze oscillating between 12 and 20 knots. They would have been glad even of that in a dismal second race in which they were last by more than six minutes.

The British team were saved by the performance of their small boat, the 36ft Barlo Plastics, skippered by Adrian Stead, which finished fourth and first.

Smith had already survived two mediocre attempts to start the first race after both had been abandoned, but he could still only manage fifth at the end. That race was won in emphatic style for the United States by Kenny Read, whose crew had to scramble over to Hamble and pick up their much-repaired boat in time to race.

Read faced a hectic set of repairs after colliding with Smith's boat while nearing the end of the first leg of the second race when he had right of way. Smith said he had a stalled rudder when trying to avoid Read and voluntarily took a 360-degree penalty turn to finish in eighth place. The American skipper was initially not placated and wanted the jury to impose further punishment. Later, however, a more relaxed Read said: "We have renamed our boat Pin Cushion. We have also asked for redress because of the collision. That's why we had to protest the British. We're not mad at them for hitting us. We've all made mistakes."

Smith explained: "We had already nearly rammed Germany's Rubin and I had the wheel fully locked over. The only way was to dump everything. We made a mistake."

Britain's team manager, Harry Cudmore, added: "We're all starting the long race level. If I was a betting man I wouldn't bet against us."

Earlier, Law had supported a protest against Germany's Thomas Friese by the Australians which led to MK Cafe being disqualified from second in the short offshore race.

ADMIRAL'S CUP (Cowes): Race six 50ft class: 1 Idler (US); 2 Innovision (Neth); 3 Breeze (It); 5 Venture (GB). Sydney 40: 1 MK Cafe (Ger); 2 Breeze (It); 3 Blan (Fr); 7 Nautica (GB). Mumm 36: 1 Jeantex (Ger); 2 Ciao Baby (US); 3 Breeze (It); 4 Barlo Plastics (GB). Race seven 50s: 1 Innovision; 2 Quest (Aus); 3 Rubin (Ger). 40s: 1 MK; 2 Breeze; 3 Merit Cup (Europe); 9 Nautica. 36s: 1 Barlo Plastics; 2 Mean Machine (Neth); 3 Breeze. Overall (subject to protests): 1= Great Britain 96pts; 1= Netherlands 96; 3 Europe 97; 4 Germany 108.5; 5 United States 113.5; 6 Italy 114; 7 Australia 134; 8 Commonwealth 187; 9 France 218.

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