SAILING : Man on board no help to women

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The Independent Online
So, now we know. The America's Cup is no arena for novices: any fault will be mercilessly exposed in the searing spotlight, and the all- woman experiment that 1992 winner Bill Koch thought could blow away myths about yachting skills is fast running aground.

The first whistle of panic was the appointment of a man, as David Dellenbaugh took over as starting helmsman and tactician for the first race of the semi-finals of the defender Citizen Cup from Jennifer "JJ" Isler following orchestrated group approaches by her team-mates to Koch.

They still lost, though Dellenbaugh wanted to take the blame for that, and Leslie Egnot, newly appointed as skipper even though Koch had said there would not be one, said they just did not have the experience to win and it was important to them all to win.

Egnot said she was having trouble steering the new boat, the Kiwi accent of her adopted country even stronger than usual, but the New Zealanders she has grown up with were showing in the first race of the Louis Vuitton Cup semis that the defenders had better put their house in order and quickly.

Russell Coutts gave the older of his two boats its first outing by beating his Auckland rival Chris Dickson, who had promised an all guns blazing performance. The second Team New Zealand boat was devastating.

Nor did John Bertrand have any trouble in his remaining oneAustralia in sailing powerfully away from John Cutler in Nippon Challenge. The Frenchman Bruno Trouble observed that it might be better to abandon the semis and just let TNZ tune up its two boats in preparation to beat the US. The Aussies may not agree, but the bookies would.

AMERICA'S CUP (San Diego): Citizen Cup, semi-final, day one: Pact '95 bt America3, 32sec. Louis Vuitton Cup, semi-final, race one: oneAustralia bt Nippon Challenge, 2min 39sec; Team New Zealnd bt Tag Heuer, 2:15.

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