Sailing: Channel race sets the adrenalin flowing

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The Independent Online
The sight of huge yachts thundering towards the crowd-lined beach in the Champagne Mumm Admiral's Cup here yesterday at the start of a Channel Race that began at 104 miles and, in a highly unusual step, was extended by a further 50 midway through the event, provided a classic overture to Cowes Week.

The combination of power from sails towering some 110 feet above the water, skill, as the competitors criss-crossed each other with only feet to spare, and sheer lunacy, as high risks were willingly taken to gain a little extra advantage, provided a spectacular scene.

The 24 yachts set out from the Solent before racing down to Poole, back along the south of the Isle of Wight and then executing a triangle around Nab Tower. The distance set was surprisingly short - 200 miles is the norm - as the Royal Ocean Racing Club's course setter, Alan Green, was worried about the fresh south-westerly breeze dying a death overnight.

If the race lasted overnight. Green was also considering extending the course if the weather forecast was inaccurate. All the boats were carried out past the Needles on a swooshing, westerly ebb tide and the big boats could even have been back for a last dance at one of the many discos which spring up here during the event.

And, as the Channel Race counts for more than double points, the winners could be looking at some easy pickings over breakfast today, the losers rueing the fact that there would be so little opportunity to recover.

While Britain's big boat, Group 4 Seahorse, was up with the pack, the 40ft Group 4 Astro was next to last and the Mumm 36 Group 4 was last in her class. Ireland's Jameson 1 was the leading big boat, again chased by America's Blue Yankee. Italy's BravaQ8 was again leading the 40s, chased, inevitably, by the American Pigs in Space, though the Gordon Maguire-skippered Irish yacht Jameson 2 then forced its way between the two.

America's Jim Brady led the Mumm 36s from the Italian yacht Mumm a Mia!, skippered by the Welshman Eddie Warden Owen.

Back in Cowes the town was filling up rapidly as the boats for the 857 entries in the Skandia Life Cowes week poured in from around the sailing world. Racing starts at 10.30 today and continues until next Saturday.