Sailing: Conner makes up lost ground

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The Independent Online
WHILE Dennis Conner was in jovial mood despite coming 10th yesterday in the first Etchells race of Cowes Week, Britain's Champagne Mumm Admiral's Cup team was slogging its way home at the end of a 206-mile offshore thrash around the English Channel miserably contemplating a slump to second last.

Graham Walker's Indulgence was last of the 50-footers and Stuart Childerley, with his tactician Chris Dickson, was last of the 45- footers. It was left to the 40-footer GBE International to turn in a half-decent result of fourth.

'All is not lost,' Walker said afterwards. But he conceded that the course had offered minimal opportunities for tactical or slick handling gains.

Not that the favourites, the Italians, were complaining. They turned on the power to accelerate past the Australians and lead the league of eight nations.

The Germans were both pleased that they went up to third place after the second of the six- race series and frustrated that, because of a peculiar points system, their one-tonner Pinta could come second in class and yet see the effort discarded.

Most competitors thought that scoring the best two results from three boats meant the two best results from the three divisions. Instead the whole fleet races on handicap. Yesterday the smaller boats won on handicap, so the bigger boats hardly needed to have left the dock.

The Royal Ocean Racing Club, which organises the event, came in for further criticism about the course. Far from providing a test for the world's best its only saving grace was that it was over quickly.

'We forgave them for setting such a poor course in the first race,' said Gordon Maguire, skipper of the Irish two-tonner Jameson 2. 'But to make the same mistake a second time stretches the limits of statistical credibility.'

Dennis Conner is the present world champion in the increasingly popular and competitive Etchells 22 class, but he seemed pleased with his day among the 750 yachts enjoying a good westerly breeze in the Solent.

He is taking a look at the track on which the 1995 world championship will be staged. Making a good start, he was leading the fleet of 51 by 10 seconds at the first buoy, but he then went the wrong way and went from first to last as the local crewman Nick Griffith picked the wrong buoy to aim for. Such is Conner's skill and the determination of his crew that he pulled back to 10th, and that is not an easy thing to do.

The main prize of the day, the Queen's Cup, was won by the Frenchman Alain Bertheloot on the 52-foot Loire Atlantique. Not all went well for The Duke of Edinburgh, who took his son Prince Edward with him on Sigma 38 Yeoman XXVIII. Coming into the finish line he crashed into Alan Bentley's Sigma 36 Magazine II, which had right of way. Prince Philip quite properly retired.

CHAMPAGNE MUMM ADMIRAL'S CUP (Cowes) Positions after two races: 1 Italy, 93.38pts; 2 Australia, 88.25; 3 Germany, 80; 4= France and Ireland, 73; 6 Japan, 66; 7 Great Britain, 64.5; 8 Netherlands, 41.5.