Sailing: French hold aces on home waters

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The Independent Online
BERTRAND PACe and his America's Cup crew must have been wondering yesterday how they came only second in the opening race of the French Grand Prix in the World Championship. With a pair of wins they have now won the subsequent three and, while there had already appeared to be two divisions of four within the fleet of eight identical 80-foot Maxi One Designs, they have created a third at the top of one.

They ought to do well on home waters, but there is plenty of experience out to topple them and the first four regattas have been won by Ludde Ingvall, who made his name in the 1989-90 Whitbread Cup.

Pace was all calm authority, winning the first race by two minutes. That authority extended to advising the committee, which had waited for a perfect sea breeze to settle in evenly over the course, to move the start-line because it was too close to the rocky shore.

The French did not have it all their own way as New Zealand's Ross Field made a foray up the right-hand side of the course pay and crossed the fleet. But he could not hold the lead and fell further back as a spinnaker split 400 yards from the end of the first run.

While the Swiss were doing better, second ahead of Ingvall with Christian Wahl and Pierre-Yves Jorand taking over from fleet owner and series-backer Ernesto Bertarelli, the South African Geoff Meek, with Paul Standbridge and Jules Salter in the afterguard, paid dearly for misjudging a windward mark rounding. They had to take a penalty and try again. But the French increased their lead relentlessly and serenely, leaving the others to fight over the scraps.