Sailing: Commodores' Cup of confused allegiances: Marine men for hire dominate event that bears remarkable resemblance to the Admiral's Cup

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THERE is a difference, but not much, between the second Rolex Commodores' Cup, which starts in the Solent today, and the Admiral's Cup, the international three- boat team event that takes place biennially on odd years.

Odd in terms of numbers, that is. But what is strange is the international goulash that makes up the Commodores' Cup personnel. It takes some working out.

Britain has three teams under three flags: the English, with one German-owned boat, the Welsh, with an Irish helmsman, Gordon Maguire, and the Channel Islands, with a Welsh helmsman, Glyn Charles, and the father-and-son pairing of George and Adrian Stead from Poole. Stead Jnr is also contemplating a pairing with the 1992 Barcelona representative, Paul Brotherton, in a 470. Also sailing for Jersey is Ross Field, the New Zealand skipper of the Whitbread winner, Yamaha.

The Germans have two teams, including the Welshman, Eddie Warden Owen, and the Irishman, Harry Cudmore, as helmsmen, plus several New Zealanders and an Italian helmsman, Francesco de Angelis, abetted by a Brazilian tactician, Torben Grael.

The Americans also have two teams, and one of their boats has a German-born owner, the noted architect, Helmut Jahn. They also have the America's Cup winner, Buddy Melges, who brings with him By Baldridge and Andreas Josenhans, plus the likes of John Kolius, Peter Holmberg, Kenny Read and John Marshall. With the Dutch and the Argentinians also present, there should nine teams with 27 boats lining up today for a 25-mile upwind and down again course - if the wind can ever decide from which direction it wants to blow.

Although meant to be rather lower key than an Admiral's Cup, and restrictions on the number of sails that can be used help put a lid on costs, there is little to distinguish the dockside gathering of professional yachtsmen from the senior competition.

Germany also have the double gold medallist, Jochen Schumann, and the silver medallist, Achim Griese, while the 77-year-old Hans-Otto Schumann, the veteran of countless Admiral's Cup campaigns, is back with Rubin XII.

The Dutch have the French America's Cup tune-up helmsman, Roy Heiner, and Bouwe Bekking, the watch captain alongside Maguire on the American Whitbread boat, Winston.

The England team captain, David Walters, said yesterday: 'This really is a David and Goliath situation.' He was unwilling to put pounds 100 at 10 to 1 on David.

ROLEX COMMODORES' CUP (The Solent): TEAMS: England: Bounder of the Century (C Little); Jackdaw (D Walters); The Wall (J Reichers). Argentina: Califa 3 (A Arrebillaga); Fuga (A Tonconogy); Mercenario 3 (L Silva). Germany (Red Team): Antibody (R Arndt); Omen (T Friese); Aerosail 3 (A Griese). Germany (Green Team): Rubin (H-O Schumann); Aerosail Astro (J Schumann); Thomas I- Punkt (T Dodson). Jersey: Ferocious (J Webley); Tram (P Morton); Indulgence (G Walker). Netherlands: Kateie (L Dewulf); S'Energy (B Wiersma); Innovision IV (H Ekof). United States (Red Team): Rhody Express (P Vassella); Kropp Duster (C Kropp); Numbers (J Risley). United States (White Team): Falcon (J Brock); Pigs in Space (D Clark); Flash Gordon (H Jahn). Wales: Eagle (A Todd); Shogun (C Shatwell); Integrity (R Cameron-Davies). Schedule of races: Today: Race 1 Windward/leeward (25 miles). Tomorrow: Race 2 Windward/leeward (12 miles). Race 3 Windward/leeward (10 miles). Friday: Channel Race (175-200 miles). Monday: Solent Race (25 miles). Tuesday: Short Offshore (130- 150 miles). Thursday: Solent Race (10-15 miles).