Sailing: Fischer runs rivals ragged: Australian team leads the way as protests fly after the opening race of the Admiral's Cup while Ireland's seasoned seafarer gets a distinctly sinking feeling: Stuart Alexander reports from Cowes

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The Independent Online
THE Royal Ocean Racing Club came under fire last night after the trail of destruction left by the first race of the Champagne Mumm Admiral's Cup. One yacht was sunk, one narrowly missed ripping off her keel, and four others were the subject of feverish repair work before today's second race, a 200-mile hike round the Channel.

Germany's Willi Ullbruck threatened to withdraw his 40-footer Pinta from the team, not just because he thought it was impossible to make hasty repairs to keel and rudder damage. He was also angry at the 'crazy' course set by the committee.

Paul Cayard used unprintable language about the choice of a course that provided little more than a drag race and he was joined by his tactician Rod Davis, the skipper of New Zealand's 1992 America's Cup challenge.

All of which overshadowed a storming start by Australia as Syd Fischer's Ragamuffin won the 50-foot class and the Australian 45-footer, Great News II, hammered all her rivals in the two-ton category and scored fourth overall.

The Italians, 2-1 favourites by the bookmakers, sailed conservatively to lie second, the defending French had a dismal day as their trio struggled to be sixth, and Britain, despite a strong performance by Graham Walker's 50-footer Indulgence, were relegated from third to fifth overall after a protest involving Provezza Source.

A protest from Fischer's Ragamuffin against Indulgence was dismissed. It was one of Walker's former skippers, Harold Cudmore, who had the embarrassing job of explaining how he, as a resident of Cowes, had tried to park his Irish CMAC team one-tonner, Jameson I, on a well-known rocky hazard called Gurnard Ledge. His appeal for a replacement boat was rejected.

Race officials, after hearing a protest from the Japanese team, disqualified Britain's mid-size yacht, the 45-foot Provezza Source, skippered by Stuart Childerley, for barging at a course mark when going round it.

Glyn Charles in GBE International had done a great job off the start line in 18 to 22 knots of south-westerly and was leading the small boat class at the end of the first, seven-mile leg and leading the whole fleet on handicap at the end of the first spinnaker run. But she, too, hit Gurnard Ledge coming back up, knocked the bottom part off her keel, and slipped to fourth in class and 17th overall. Immediately after crossing the finish she peeled off to Hamble for repairs.

CHAMPAGNE MUMM ADMIRAL'S CUP (Cowes): First day: 50ft class: 1 Ragamuffin (Aus) 23.25; 2 Indulgence (GB) 22.00; 3 Mandrake (It) 21.00; 4 Champosa (Japan) 19.00; 5 Promotion (Neth) 18.00; 6 Container (Ger) 16.00; 7 Jameson Three (Irl) 14.00; 8 Corum Saphir (Fr) 12.00. Two-ton class: 1 Great News II (Aus) 20.00; 2 Jameson Two (Irl) 17.00; 3 Larouge (It) 15.00; 4 Corum Rubis (Fr) 13.00; 5 Rubin (Ger) 6.00; 6 Swing (Japan) 5.00. Disqualified: Provezza Source (GB). One-ton class: 1 Nippon (Japan) 11.00; 2 Corum Diamant (Fr) 9.00; 3 Brava Q8 (It) 8.00; 4 GBE International (GB) 7.00; 5 Pinta (Ger) 4.00; 6 Ninja (Aus) 3.00. Ace (Neth) did not start. Jameson One (Irl) did not finish. Overall standings: 1 Australia 43.25pts; 2 Italy 36; 3 Ireland 31; 4 Japan 30; 5 Great Britain 29; 6 France 25; 7 Germany 22; 8 Netherlands 19.

(Photograph omitted)