Sailing: Lakota to take on airs

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The Independent Online
A GATHERING of 1,240 yachts will set off today on the annual pilgrimage around the Island of Wight, in a race which promises near-idyllic conditions, though not necessarily record-breaking ones, writes Stuart Alexander.

A cautious sailing club secretary, Tony Pearson, was still expecting light conditions to suit a 6am start, but when the 39 classes set off, they are expected to pick up a friendly 12 to 15 knots of south-westerly sea breeze as the day develops.

That would be enough to push the likes of the Americans, David Scully and Steve Fossett, in their 65-foot trimaran Lakota. It may also tempt the Olympic bronze medallist, Jo Richards, to ride Stephen Fein's 30-foot catamaran, Full Pelt, instead of joining in a boat of the same name in the Etchells 22s.

The fastest of the monohulls are expected to be Graham Walker's Indulgence,

Tony Todd's defending line- honours winner, Eagle, and Mike Slade's other maxi,

Ocean Leopard, which still holds the monohull record of five hours 35 minutes from 1991.

At Hayling Island, the world No 1, Shirley Robertson, was making easy work of the Europe singlehander as the UK's Eurolymp regatta continued to enjoy good conditions.

In the 61-strong Laser fleet, Nic Burfoot, of New Zealand, sneaked a race off Serge Kats, the Dutchman who has

tucked five world championships under his belt in as many years. Britain's Mark Littlejohn is well placed.