SAILING; No pot of gold at the end for Rainbow Magic

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THE ORGANISERS may have made polite noises about welcoming the fleet of eight identical 80ft Maxi One designs to stage the first race of the Cowes Regatta in Adecco World Championship here. They then ushered them back out through the tradesmen's entrance for their opening race day.

Having made backtracking comments about using committee boat starts, the powers that be, to no one's surprise, got rid of the big boats as quickly as possible on a course to Nab Tower that was as tedious as it was witless.

But, it was the same for all and the combined talents of the South African skipper Geoff Meek and Britain's Neal McDonald, Jules Salter, Paul Standbridge and Kelvin Rawlings could not guide Rainbow Magic to success.

Two hours before the start the 18 crew were on board to prepare the boat, discuss tactics, and make rude comments about the previous night's beer tent conquests and exploits. With representatives of South Africa, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France, Australia and New Zealand, there was plenty of material to chew on. The boat's only woman, Eleanor Hay, from Lymington, listened, smiled, and said little.

A good start saw a lot of encouraging remarks being fed back to Meek. "You are faster on the same heading; now you are sailing higher but at the same speed; we're in a good lane here," were typical. Australia's Whitbread and the America's Cup sailmaker, Jim Close, constantly called for adjustments to the trim of the sails and tension on the mast.

Unfortunately for Meek, that was prior to his approach towards Portsmouth, where boats on the Isle of Wight shore looked dead but came out looking famous and Meek was sent off course, not for long but damagingly, by the New Zealander Ross Field.

By the time all the windward work into the five-to-eight knot easterly had been done, Rainbow Magic had emerged in last place. But there was no shortage of optimism - born of hearty contempt for any opposition - that some of those ahead could be knocked off. It was unlikely this was matched by worried pessimism on the other boats but, said Adrian Inglas: "We've come back from worse. Nothing can hold a South African team back."

It was not to be so this time. As rain dissolved all hope, the series leader, Ludde Ingvall, on board Skandia, with Eddie Warwick there for local knowledge, ran away with the silverware.

Andy Beadsworth, back from Norway after successfully qualifying Britain for next year's Olympic Games in the Soling, also hoped for glory. Instead it was Kevin Sproul who steered Glynn Williams' Farr 40 Wolf to victory in the Sir Walter Preston Challenge Cup.