Sailing: Pace throws down gauntlet to Pajot: World Match Racing final produces a storming finish after a day of light winds

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The Independent Online
BERTRAND PACE threw a defiant 'sack me if you dare' challenge to his America's Cup chief, Marc Pajot, when he beat Paul Cayard to win the World Championship of Match Race Sailing in the gloom of Saturday evening.

Pace had already caused something of an upset by beating the world No 3, Rod Davis, 3-0 in the semi-finals. Cayard had disposed of the world No 2, Peter Gilmour.

Philippe Briand, the designer of Pajot's America's Cup yachts, had said that Pajot had to make a choice between Pace's explosive but sometimes wayward talent and Thierry Peponnet's consistency.

There would still be a senior role for Pace, but Briand was hinting that Peponnet would replace Pace, who was alongside Pajot and Marc Bouet in 1992.

Pace has changed over the past few years. He no longer chain smokes all the way up the course, or bites the hairs off the back of his hand as a release of nervous tension. But tense he still is.

Cayard wanted to win this event. He is a competitor who is suited to long campaigns, growing stronger while others eventually crack under pressure. It is partly because of this that Dennis Conner has signed him for his Stars and Stripes defence team.

At one stage it looked as though Cayard would win by default. There was no wind all day, and the committee announced it would make 4pm a cut-off time. That would have given victory to Cayard, who had a better record in the preliminary double round-robin.

Both men wanted to sail and, despite the failing light and the trickle of a breeze, they were given their wish. Pace lost the first of the best of three, but then squeezed a litle extra speed out of his 30- foot Beneteau Figaro.

For Britain there was only disappointment. Eddie Warden-Owen would have been last if Chris Law had not been thrown out for using abusive language to the umpires and the international jury. Law's is a talent flawed by raging self-doubt, which boils over in resentment. He faces another investigation by the Royal Yachting Association, but the disqualification was seen by many people to be punishment enough.