Sailing: Law lords it over fleet

Click to follow
The Independent Online
While the ironing out of niggles, frustrations and silly errors occupied the minds of the three boats in Britain's 1997 Admiral's Cup team here yesterday, another new team was dispatching the opposition in perfect 15-knot racing conditions.

The Etchells sailor Mike Law has picked the winter sunshine as an opportunity to move up a size to a Mumm 30. He has also picked a strong crew in the Olympic bronze medallist, Ossie Stewart, the experienced Ian Tillett and the American Jud Smith.

They managed only a seventh in their opening race, improved to second in the second, and then won three straight. They are way in front of the 29-boat fleet, with Law expressing a mixture of surprise and exhilaration at the way they have taken the experienced Americans by storm.

Down on the Galleon docks after two hectic 12-mile races, John Merricks, helmsman of the Mumm 36 Bradamante, was rueing not having the radio loud enough to hear they had been recalled for a premature start in the first race. And his 470 Olympic silver medal partner, Ian Walker, was kicking himself for making a call which dropped them from second to fourth after a great start to the second.

Walker is taking time to adjust to big boats after the immediacy of dinghies. "In the 470 you can really feel the boat but on these things I feel like I'm sitting on the jetty looking at instruments. It's all very different," he said. But competitors with a lot more experience are impressed with the speed at which the young British pairing and their crew are becoming a threat.

"They are able to give us a race," said Stu Bannatyne, a New Zealand member of the top-rated Jamieson, who will next week have trials in Portugal as a helmsman for Lawrie Smith's Silk Cut Whitbread entry.

Ringing the changes with helmsmen is Graham Walker on his Corel 45 Indulgence. In the fourth and fifth races the Frenchman Luc Gelluseau swapped roles with Glyn Charles, Gelluseau steering as Charles called tactics. The move, Gelluseau said, was mainly to add an extra assessment to the search for that little extra speed which the class is developing. Gelluseau, however, under the rules of the Champagne Mumm Admiral's Cup, could not steer the boat in the inshore races, where only team nationals are eligible.