Sailing: Cup falls below target

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The Independent Online
EIGHT INTERNATIONAL three-boat teams yesterday confirmed they would be competing in this year's reorganised Admiral's Cup, to be staged at Cowes in July. The number represents one more entry than in 1997 but falls well below the target of 12 to 15, which the Royal Ocean Racing Club had hoped for.

The defending champions, the United States, will line up against ever- presents such as Great Britain, Australia, Germany and Italy. The French are back for the first time since 1993 and there will be a team competing under the European banner, but which is "Italy B" in all but name. The RORC still hopes for two more teams: a second German outfit and, less certainly, the Channel Islands.

The 50-footer in the British team, the Bruce Farr-designed Chernikeeff, was launched yesterday and will join the team captain Stephen Bailey's Sydney 40, featuring Chris Law as tactician, and the Adrian Stead-skippered Mumm 36, Barlo Plastics. "We know the strength of the opposition, but we have the hardware, especially this new 50-footer, and world-class software in the crew. We intend to make the last Admiral's Cup of the century a British success," Peter Harrison, the managing director of the British team sponsor said.

The disappointment of failing to attract more teams, despite the presence of the Olympic and Whitbread skipper Roy Heiner at the helm of the Dutch big boat, was played down by the RORC special events director, Alan Green. He said: "Once again the event will be bringing the very best off- shore racing yachts and the very best sailors to Cowes." But there is no doubt that dropping the Fastnet race from the schedule is still regretted by many. Its replacement, the 400-mile Wold Rock race, will finish back in Cowes and the in-shore race schedule will no longer overlap with Cowes Week.

Stephen Gilmore yesterday guided the Swiss billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli's 80-foot Alinghimax to victory in the 900-mile Cadiz to Lorient race, just six minutes ahead of a team from the French America's Cup challenge. In third place was the Kiwi Jeff Scott at the helm of Lude Ingvall's Skandia, beating his former skipper, Ross Field, by more than an hour.

Italy's Giovanni Soldini is expected to finish the Around Alone Race in Charleston, South Carolina, today to win the 60-foot class ahead of the only other remaining competitor, Marc Thiercelin of France. Two days further behind, Britain's Mike Garside, in his 50-foot Class II Magellan Alpha, is still in control of the fourth leg from Punta del Este.