Sailing: Fischer cleared of infringement

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The Independent Online
SYD FISCHER, who has had leading roles in the America's Cup and Admiral's Cup and is shortlisted to be Australia's yachtsman of the year, last night survived a bitter protest by the Irish Australian, John Storey. It was brought under one of sailing's most serious rules, No 75, which alleges gross infringement of the rules or misconduct.

Storey alleged that Fischer's yacht, the 50-footer Ragamuffin, with America's Cup helmsman Peter Gilmour in charge, deliberately baulked his 45-footer Atara, skippered by Bill Sykes, to keep him among the fleet in the sixth race of the Kodak Southern Cross Cup. Atara still won the race, however. The five-man international jury, chaired by the American Ken Morrison, agreed to hear the protest immediately but dismissed it.

Atara, sailing for the New South Wales team, claimed Ragamuffin had been intent on improving the position of its Australian team partner, the IMS 40-footer, Assassin. 'This sort of thing happens at the end of every regatta, boats start banging on each other,' Gilmour said. 'These guys have chosen to get bent out of shape about it.'

The 14th Southern Cross series was saved from going into extra time today by the staging of the last of the shorter races inside the harbour yesterday instead of sending the nine teams on a 50-70 miler offshore.

Grey clouds blotted out the sun, rain washed away the zinc block, and the breeze came out in sympathy. Some crews which had booked on crowded flights home for Christmas were looking mighty apprehensive.

Most embarrassed again was George Snow's new 22.9m IMS maxi, Brindabella, consistently beaten by the new Kiwi cruiser/racer, Cassiopeia.

From the outside it has looked as if the 1993 Southern Cross has become more parochially Australian and more diminished, reduced to two rather than three-boat teams, one under International Offshore Rule handicap, one under International Measurement System.

But two things have emerged which bode well for the future. The first is that new yachts are now being ordered in a market as badly hit by nerves and lack of confidence as any in Europe. And three of the new Mumm 36s, which will be the nominated small yacht in the 1995 and '97 Admiral's Cups, have turned up and shown what exciting prospects they can be.

As always, the series will be decided by 'the big one', the 630-mile Sydney to Hobart Race, which starts on Boxing Day. Going into the Hobart, the New South Wales A team was still leading overall, followed by Australia and New South Wales B.