Sailing: Germans triumph as protest is rejected: Australia denied victory by narrow margin in dramatic conclusion to Fastnet Race while portents for Britain are bright

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The Independent Online
GERMANY snatched the Champagne Mumm Admiral's Cup from the embrace of Australia by just a quarter of a point after a squabble over a rule infringement involving neither of them in Plymouth yesterday.

The German trio, the 50-footer Container, the 45-footer, Rubin, and the 40-footer, Pinta, went into the Fastnet Race in third place trailing the leaders Italy by 16.5 points and second-placed Australia by 14.25 points. Italy were reduced to one boat when their 45-footer, Larouge, was dismasted. The Australians also lost their 45-footer, Great News II, weakening their last-ditch bid, despite Syd Fischer's 50-footer, Ragamuffin, being the top-scoring boat of the seven- race regatta.

Up on the rails came Germany to squeeze by at the tape for their fourth Admiral's Cup win and first since 1985. The defending champions, France, again did well, scoring 100 points in the Fastnet, to finish third overall, pushing the stricken Italians, whose sole representative on the race course was Paul Cayard's 40-footer, Brava Q8, back to fourth.

Then came a protest from Britain's Stuart Childerley in Provezza Source against the Irish skipper, Harry Cudmore, in Jameson 2. Childerley had complained that Cudmore had broken international maritime rules by allegedly swerving his yacht in a dangerous manner at night. If the protest had been upheld it would have allowed Australia's 40-footer, Ninja, to move up a place and give them the Cup. The jury said no.

For sixth-placed Britain some pride was salvaged by the older brigade on Graham Walker's Indulgence, by victory in the Fastnet. There are also bright hopes for the future in the way that Glyn Charles, Adrian Stead, Andrew Beadsworth and Andy Hemmings tackled so positively the job of racing the one-tonner, GBE International. The decision to blood them now was a good one.

The 19th Admiral's Cup has been remarkable for surviving when other international grand prix events around the world have become increasingly regional. It has attracted a level of competitor unrivalled in any other arena than the America's Cup. The new era which starts in 1995 will see an increase in the number of countries challenging with so many boats being built to the new International Measurement System.

Simultaneously, the organisers of the Admiral's Cup, the Royal Ocean Racing Club, have the chance to seize all the opportunities that a period of change allows. Never again must a complicated scoring system, instituted this time because two as well as three-boat teams were allowed in case of the recession side-swiping entries, invite crews to take risks and race hard knowing that they may score no points at all. The RORC continues to set courses that lead to processions rather than close duels. The competitors are quite clear that they would prefer more, shorter races with the legs shorter than they are now, while keeping the off-shore element.

The RORC stages races where no one can see them, in an era when sponsorship means that guests are invited to watch an event. As for the public, they can go hang.

Even if the RORC does not care about that, there are the competitors to consider. In no other team game would the organisers expect people to sit for up to two hours in the wet and cold before blowing the kick-off whistle. There is no attempt to present the teams to the public, even at the start of the Fastnet. The RORC is organising an event as well as a race.

A new era is the perfect excuse for a complete revamp and re-packaging of the Admiral's Cup. The 20th in 1995 should be suitably sparkling, not flat and stale, and the RORC has the opportunity for experiment when it stages what is meant to be the more corinthian Commodores' Cup next year.