Sailing: Britain still lagging in wake of the leaders: Italian team hold overall lead on a day of damage limitation for crew members of the Admiral's Cup fleet

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THE leaders, Italy, held a half-point lead over second-placed Australia in the overall team standings after a chapter of damage and disasters in the Corum Trophy Race of the Champagne Mumm Admiral's Cup here yesterday.

For Britain, only Stuart Childerley and the crew of the 45-footer, Provezza Source, in the two-ton class, returned to the dock wearing smiles. They were second to Robert Fry and the Japanese crew of Swing who sailed a superb race in the 18 to 27-knot breeze.

But the 19.5 contribution to Britain's points total by Childerley and his tactician, Chris Dickson, was pushed up only a further seven by the 40-footer, GBE International, helmed by Glyn Charles with Adrian Stead as tactician. That left Britain in seventh place with a 2 1/2 - point cushion from the last-placed team, the Netherlands.

On a day when the 50-footers were storming along, the cornerstone British boat, Indulgence, suffered a bad start, then an injury to a crew member as the principal sail trimmer, Jerry Richards, was thrown across the cockpit and hurt his back. Finally, a fitting on the end of the spinnaker pole jammed. The boat rounded up violently, the spinnaker had to be cut away, and the crew took so long to sort things out that they slipped to a deficit of over six minutes against opponents who were racking up points for their teams.

A doctor was waiting on the marina in Cowes to look both at Richards and another crew member, Kelvin Rawlings, who damaged his left knee. 'We will consider things tonight,' the owner, Graham Walker, said, 'but we may have to juggle the crew for the next race.'

That is today, and other yachts were also needing attention. The Japanese one-tonner, Nippon, had been leading all her opponents by a street when, gybing the sails from one side to the other on the final run, she broke her boom and had to retire. And their 50-footer, Champosa, blew three spinnakers.

The Italians should have retained their overnight lead easily as their 50- footer, Mandrake, won a bruising day in the rock and roll conditions. But their 45-footer, Larouge, packed with stars from bow to stern, made a hash of crossing the finish line, fouled the Irish two-tonner Jameson II and accepted a penalty.

Their one-tonner, Brava Q8, first fouled the start line, then fought back, and then had their mast break due to what they diagnosed as compression failure. They also had a damaged rudder.

With the best knowing it was a day for survival rather than subtlety, the 750 yachts taking part in Cowes Week a little further west in the Solent were also crashing and banging their way round the courses set for 22 classes.

There was a double for Stephen Bailey sailing his Etchells 22 to victory over third-placed Dennis Conner, who was balked on the start line. And Bailey's other boat, a Sigma 38 also called Arbitrator, won its class in the hands of the Olympic bronze medallist, Ossie Stewart, filling in time before the serious business of the evening, sailing an Ultra 30.

The major prize of the Sir Walter Preston Challenge Cup went to a boat called Camp Freddie owned by a west countryman called Gregory Peck, and the Cordon Rouge Trophy to the American, Skip Sheldon, in Aurora. John Allenby won his second X One Design race of the week in Felix, a new version of a boat whose design dates back to 1909.

ADMIRAL'S CUP (Cowes) Fourth day: Corum Trophy (27 miles): 50ft class: 1 Mandrake (It) 23.25pts; 2 Ragamuffin (Aus) 21.00; 3 Container (Ger) 19.50; 4 Promotion (Neth) 13.00; 5 Corum Saphir (Fr) 12.00; 6 Champosa (Japan) 11.00; 7 Jameson III (Irl) 9.00; 8 Indulgence (GB) 6.00.

Two-ton class: 1 Swing (Japan) 22.00; 2 Provezza Source (GB) 19.50; 3 Great News (Aus) 18.00; 4 Rubin (Ger) 17.00; 5 Larouge (It) 16.00; 6 Jameson II (Irl) 15.00; 7 Corum Rubis (Fr) 14.00.

One-ton class: 1 Corum Diamant (Fr) 10.00; 2 Ninja (Aus) 8.00; 3 GBE International (GB) 7.00; 4 Pinta (Ger) 5.00; 5 Ace (Neth) 4.00; Nippon (Japand) and Brava Q8 (It) did not complete race three (two points each).

Team standings (after three races): 1 Italy (132.63); 2 Australia (127.25); 3 Germany (116.50); 4= France and Japan (99.00); 6 Ireland (97.00); 7 Great Britain (91.00); 8 Netherlands (58.50).

(Photograph omitted)