Sailing: Early start augurs well for Admiral's Cup team

A strong sense of mission accomplished was expressed by Richard Matthews, the British Admiral's Cup team captain, at the end of Key West Race Week here.

"Instead of putting the team together in June for an event in July, this time we are up and running with six months to go and I think we have seen some tremendous potential," he said.

The progress of Olympic silver medalists John Merricks and Ian Walker in coming to grips with the transfer from a 470 dinghy to the Mumm 36 came in for special comment.

"It's been a bit of a baptism of fire and I think they have come through extremely well," he said. "Obviously there is still a lot to learn, but it has been good to see them leading the fleet at times."

After the SORC regatta in Miami next month, they will take Tom Barratt's Bradamante on the European circuit and finish their preparations with the World Championship in Lymington in July.

Staying in the United States will be Graham Walker's Corel 45 Indulgence which, after the early frustration of knitting the crew together and knowing they were using older sails against better tuned opposition, finished on the high note of two wins and a third.

Also happy with their performance was the crew of Tony Buckingham's recently purchased ILC 40, Easy Oars, whose plans may include a world championship being staged as part of Gdansk's 1,000th birthday celebrations.

While all three boats will work together on a sail development programme, as well as daily pooling of tactical thinking when they are at the same regatta, the squad system of moving crew from boat to boat has yet to be addressed.

Matthews expects to discuss that ahead of Miami but also feels there are unlikely to be many moves of that kind. "This has been very much a first week of team effort, but we are going to come away from it feeling pretty good. It's been a really useful exercise," he concluded.

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