Sailing: British show their class

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JOHN MERRICKS and Ian Walker, Britain's new pairing in the Olympic 470 class, left their sick beds yesterday to hand out a lesson in boat speed and handling at the Eurolymp Regatta off Hayling Island, writes Stuart Alexander.

They took the first two races in near-perfect 12-15 knot conditions with a gear to spare. They would have also won the third, despite being buried in the pack at the start, if they had not stuck doggedly to the less-favoured right- hand side of the course on the last upwind leg.

Both are enthusiastic about the partnership after being rival helmsmen for Olympic places in Barcelona in 1992. 'The big advantage we have is Ian calling the tactics from the wire, leaving me to concentrate on sailing the boat fast,' Merricks said.

Having missed the first two races on Wednesday with stomach upsets, which caused Walker to lose half a stone in five days, they are unlikely to win overall at Eurolymp. But they are well on course for success in the Olympic classes world championship at La Rochelle in six weeks and the 470 worlds in Helsinki at the end of August.