Sailing: Buckingham's boat makes a dream start

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The Independent Online
Tony Buckingham, the owner of the mid-sized 40-footer Easy Oars in this year's British Admiral's Cup team, has made a dream start to his first major international campaign here.

Steered by Andy Beadsworth and crewed by the likes of Chris Mason, Geoff Stagg, Lou Varney, Vincent Geake and, for this regatta, Paul Standbridge, the purchase of what was David Clarke's Pigs in Space is looking like money well spent, following a second, third and then a first place at the Key West Race Week.

Stagg, a leading light in the Annapolis-based organisation of the designer Bruce Farr, insists that there are many opportunities to improve the boat's performance from what has been virtually a moth-balled condition following changes in the design rules.

Also still feeling good with themselves is the crew of the British team Mumm 36 Bradamante. That is despite the poor rounding of a mark, which dumped them to eighth in the first race. They then missed the top turning mark when leading the second. "That's the sort of thing we can easily work out," the helmsman, John Merricks, an Olympic silver medallist of last summer, said.

They, too, are looking at a new rig and sails to improve performance further in the SORC regatta, staged in Miami next month, and also on the European circuit. They then return to Britain for a pre-Admiral's Cup World Championship in Lymington.

Still finding their feet is the crew of the big boat in the team trio, Graham Walker's 45-foot Indulgence. Reading the combination of currents, rip tides and the bends in wind direction they generate has proved difficult.

They will lead an extensive sail development programme, masterminded for all three boats by Grant Spanhake. They have also, according to the helmsman Glyn Charles, to match skills developed in a stiff breeze to the lighter conditions of south Florida.

Also having trouble with rounding a mark was the Italian and European champion of 1996, Giorgio Zuccoli. He beat the veteran Keith Musto for the right to represent Europe in the Melges 24s. There is no room for error in such a tightly fought class and following Zuccoli's retirement from the first race, although third in the second race of the day, it will take some luck as well as grit to fight his way back from 18th overall.

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