Sailing: Maxis feel the strain

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The Independent Online
BRAD BUTTERWORTH and the crew of Winston, Dennis Conner's Whitbread 60, turned on the afterburners and gave the crowds lining the Solent here a display of majestic power at the start of the Fastnet Race yesterday.

As Maxi yacht rivals over 20 feet longer struggled to keep up with the pace, the new breed of 60s was positively purring as the fresher- than-forecast 15- to 20-knot westerly carried them and 240 other yachts out into the Channel for the 605-mile voyage which takes them round the Fastnet Rock on the south-west corner of Ireland and back to Plymouth.

It took the whole of the beat to the Needles for Grant Dalton's New Zealand Endeavour, Daniel Malle's La Poste and Pierre Fehlmann's Merit Cup to start to overhaul their smaller rivals. Lawrie Smith was still behind them all, having a dog day afternoon in his stretched and wing-masted Spanish maxi, Fortuna. He wants to go downwind not upwind.

The leading Maxis had not pulled back Winston nor Javier de la Gandara's Spanish 60, Galicia '93 Pescanova. The Italian Brooksfield, with Guido Maisto as skipper, was looking happier in third and threatening a few reputations was Nance Frank's US Women's Challenge, followed by Roger Nilson's Intrum Justitia and Matt Humphries in Britain's Dolphin and Youth Challenge.

Starting behind them was the Champagne Mumm Admiral's Cup fleet winding up a series where the Italians' remaining two boats are trying to defend a two- point lead over Australia and make amends for being pipped at the post by France in 1991.

Going through Hurst Castle, the 50-footers were led by Germany's Container, with Britain's Indulgence second and Australia's Ragamuffin fourth.

The two-tonners were led for Australia by Great News II with Italy's Larouge second and Britain's Provezza Source third. The one-tonners had Brava Q8 leading the field for Italy, with Germany's Pinta second. Britain's GBE International was fourth, just ahead of Australia's Ninja.