Sailing: Finn gets racing off to a flying start

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The Independent Online
Cowes Week burst into life yesterday, the maxi class giving a glorious day's racing a great send-off as they powered their way up the Solent to Portsmouth.

After a limp start on Saturday, a stiff south-easterly, softening only to a brisk 15 to 16 knots, gave perfect racing conditions for the 850 yachts in 29 classes, a total which is creeping back up towards the record 926 set in 1989.

The clash between the Grand Mistral 80 Nicorette, skippered by Finland's Ludde Ingvall, and Mike Slade's conventional maxi, Longabarda, went to Ingvall after a series of legs up and down wind were fought nose to nose.

"It was a cracker," said the Whitbread veteran Kim Morton, one of the Longabarda stalwarts. "Yes, but we won," chipped in Paul Standbridge, a former crew-mate of Morton's for Lawrie Smith who was sailing on Nicorette.

The battle between the Bashford-Howison 41s that dominated Ford Cork Week last month was resumed on the south coast of England between Jocelyn Waller's Silk 2, steered by Gordon Maguire, and Stephen Bailey's Arbitrator, a member of last week's victorious England South team in the Commodores' Cup and steered by the unrelated Graham Bailey.

Stephen Fein's crew on Full Pelt, a 36ft skimming dish part-designed by the man who steers it, the 1984 Olympic bronze medallist Jo Richards, aided by Graham Deegan and Johnny Newnham, were first over the line, but they slipped to eighth on handicap.

Victory went to Maguire, who took the Glazebrook Challenge Trophy to add to their silverware. But it will take the whole week to decide the outcome of the second in a series of three regattas to find a European champion to send to Key West next January to contest the Melges 24 class against the might of the Americans.

Leading the 32-boat fleet after two races is David Bedford in Glenfiddich 1, who must know that he faces a stiff challenge from the Italian former world Tornado catamaran champion, Giorgio Zuccoli, who has already won the first regatta at Kiel. The third qualifier is the Barcelona Gold Cup in October.

Well used to such pressure in a fleet that can sometimes muster 80 on the start line off the Squadron is Peter Baines, three times winner of the Captain's Cup in the 1911-designed boat. He was second yesterday, warming up for a tilt at a fourth title today.