Sailing: Collins sweeps past Geurts

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AMERICA'S ED COLLINS took the lead at the half-way stage in the Mumm 30 World Championships in the Solent yesterday. After six of the 11 races he has a two-point lead over Walter Geurts of the Netherlands, leaving the Dutchman to count the cost of a jammed spinnaker in the third of three races yesterday.

But there is all to play for. The regatta, unlike many others, does not allow a crew to discard its worst result, so the competition will remain tight until the Saturday finale.

Geurts, the overnight leader after the first day, was comfortably in second place in that last, 6.6-mile, six-leg race of the day when he came into the bottom turning buoy and his crew could not release the jammed halyard holding the flogging sail at the masthead. As his crew struggled to release it, the chasing pack streamed by and Geurts finished the race in 10th with Collins in second place behind the Italian pair of Antonio Sodo and Massimo Mezzaroma.

Britain's Mark Heeley took advantage of a developing number of boat-handling problems caused by the wind piping up to 30 knots in the gusts - and made amends for his own crew's tussle with a wayward spinnaker in the previous race - by leapfrogging into third place.

But this was not enough to maintain his third position overall, which he relinquished to Sodo and Mezzaroma, but he remains the best-placed British boat in fourth overall.

Many of the 31 crews representing 10 nations had started the day cautiously, expecting 25-knot winds to be blowing throughout. The winds were just over 20 knots, blowing from the south at the start of the first race, but a rainstorm then came through wiping out visibility and putting a major damper on the breeze. As the direction tried to swing through 90 degrees, the race officer, Tony Lovell, decided to call a halt after four of the six legs, with Collins gratefully back in the lead.

A delay of 45 minutes saw the new wind settle in the south-west and Geurts, who had been fourth behind Sodo and Heeley in that opening race, made no mistake winning the second race of the day from Collins in second place and Britain's Louis Browne in third. But the Dutchman's day was to end in frustration.