Sailing: British pair storm into reckoning

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The Independent Online
Britain put in some storming performances of their own before the local meteorological variety again halted proceedings in the sailing events off Savannah yesterday, writes Stuart Alexander.

About 3pm is when the heavens open, but in the 14 to 16-knot southerly wind that preceded the postponement, John Merricks and Ian Walker crushed the men's 470 fleet with a winning margin of 1min 44sec. They revelled in the big swell and gusty conditions, producing the sort of performance that has so often left their opponents bruised and bewildered. It served notice that their 15th placing in the opening race was not a true indication of their ability.

Their start was "a good one", said Merricks. "We had rocket-ship speed." They smoked their way up the first beat to lead at the top mark and were never headed.

In the single-handed Laser, the 19-year old Ben Ainslie scored a second and then won the harder second race sailed in the midst of the storm. So he is counting a first, two seconds, a fourth and a seventh of the six races sailed, which puts him firmly in the silver slot. He is just one point behind the leader, Brazil's Robert Scheidt, who capsized while leading the second race but recovered to finish third. Ainslie has a seven- point cushion over Germany's Stefan Warkalla.

Shirley Robertson, is having a gritty regatta. The Europe class also completed two races, and she posted a sixth and a third to keep her tied with Courtney Becker-Dey, of the United States, who also capsized yesterday, in the bronze position, but behind the runaway favourite, Kristine Roug of Denmark, and the Netherland's Margriet Matthijsse.

The rough conditions suited the British as Glyn Charles and George Skuodas put in their best performance so far, fourth in the Star, where Brazil's Torben Grael finally broke Colin Beashel's run of three successive wins.