Sailing: Group 4 step in

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The United Kingdom's Champagne Mumm Admiral's Cup team has received a welcome boost by the announcement yesterday that Group 4 will give sponsorship to all three boats. The bulk of the money, believed to be about pounds 40,000, will go into buying new sails for the two boats chartered from Germany, which will now also carry the Group 4 name.

Group 4 already sponsors the smaller Mumm 36, skippered by Mike Golding. The extension to the other two, which has been under discussion for some time, was only agreed when the two boats were in place and is part of ensuring that Group 4's own investment is given the best possible chance of succeeding.

Two of the best known names in the America's Cup, Dennis Conner of America and Australia's John Bertrand, have registered entries for the 1997/8 Whitbread Round the World Race. Conner entered the last Whitbread in Winston, one of the new 60ft designs, with co-skipper Brad Butterworth.

Bertrand would be making his first foray into Whitbread territory, and says he is hoping for a Melbourne-based two-boat campaign under the banner of team Bertrand.

Ian Bailey-Willmot, the race director, said this brought the total of registrations to 29, including seven from the UK. Commenting on the launch tomorrow of Pierre Fehlmann's first of a line of identical 80ft water-ballasted yachts for a rival race scheduled to begin next September, Bailey-Willmot said he was confident it would not damage the appeal of the Whitbread.