Sailing: Endeavour bows to time

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The Independent Online
THERE is no sentiment in top- class yacht racing, but there can be a lot of emotion, even though the stars of a bygone era have been eclipsed by the engineering wizardry of the Nineties.

Sitting atop the control turret of that very French end-of-term regatta, La Nioulargue, Bill Whitehouse-Vaux, the British president of the race committee, said proudly: 'I remember sailing on her before the war.'

He was referring to Endeavour, the J-class yacht designed by Charles Nicholson for 'Tommy' Sopwith's 1934 challenge for the America's Cup. She went down narrowly then to Rainbow, fell into disrepair, and was ultimately taken over by an American millionairess, Elizabeth Meyer.

Ten million pounds later, she has a striking, if unoriginal, beauty with a 165ft mast and a fully fitted- out interior. In a good breeze, under sail, she is still impressive.

Nearly 60 years should produce a lifetime of progress and yesterday she met another dark blue-hulled America's Cup contender, Ville de Paris. At 75ft, compared with Endeavour's 140, Ville de Paris carries nearly half the sail area but she is only a quarter of the weight. Many thought that the 20-knot easterly would suit Endeavour on the upwind leg, although the modern Philippe Briand design should surf away downwind under spinnaker.

The French skipper, Marc Pajot, allowed Endeavour an unchallenged advantage of about 25 seconds at the start. But the new machine began to steadily climb over the old. Halfway through the upwind leg of 25 minutes, Ville de Paris was ahead, and at the turning buoy she had a 22-second lead.

Endeavour reduced that to 10 seconds as she sliced through the mild chop on a beam reach. Then they turned again, Endeavour hoisting a star-spangled blue spinnaker, but Ville de Paris responded with a high-tech plastic film chute and tramped away. By the bottom mark it was all over.

The young buck had clearly beaten the old stag, by 4min 30sec, though both exceeded an average speed of 10 knots for the 15 miles.