SAILING; Collins claims the champagne

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AS HIS rivals were suffering roller-coaster fortunes, steady Ed Collins put himself in an unbeatable position in the Mumm 30 World Championships at Hamble today. The man whose day job is a property manager in West Dover, Vermont, posted three thirds and a second in the four races and does not have to worry about the final, 11th race of the series today.

If there is an 11th race. The race officer, Tony Lovell, of the hosting Royal Southern Yacht Club, also had his eye on forecasts for gale force winds in the Solent today and decided to run four fast and furious races instead of the three that were scheduled.

As Collins made his serene progress, his nearest rivals saw their chances melt away. Second overnight, the Dutchman Walter Geurts opened his account by hitting the first turning mark in the opening light race, went second last after two penalty turns, pulled back 10 places in the 31-boat, 10- nation fleet and then hit the buoy on the finish line. He made up for it by winning the next race.

But it allowed Britain's Mark Heeley to take over the silver medal slot when he won the third race of the day, though he was breathing a sigh of relief as he hung on to it at the end. He, too, put himself in a tangle, hitting the Dutch Admiral's Cup skipper, Jochen Visser, in the final race when lying fourth.

His penalties pushed him back to ninth, but ahead of him Geurts was in more trouble, losing control of the boat under spinnaker, as the wind piped up to 25 knots, and then hitting Switzerland's Ed Kessi, to drop back to finish eighth after he had been second.