Sailing: Provezza grasping poisoned chalice: Stuart Childerley has to fight to make his name. Hugh Bateson reports

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STUART CHILDERLEY got his nose in front in the most thrilling finish of the Champagne Mumm Admiral's Cup yesterday. Unfortunately it was to avoid finishing last.

Still, his deft flick behind and on top of the French to squeeze Provezza Source ahead by half a yard on the line was as neat a bit of boat-handling as was seen throughout four hours of attritional racing in Hayling Bay.

'We came from a boat length behind to a second in front in just 40 yards, which just shows how close the racing is here,' Childerley said.

Childerley has found that his boat goes faster than most in the fleet running with the wind, but is one of the slowest going into it. Yesterday's race started and finished head on to the breeze, and so he went behind early on, clawed his way back into contention several times, and just as often saw his hard work being immediately undone.

This is not good news for an ambitious 26-year-old with a career to build. In the preamble to the last two Olympics and the last Admiral's Cup he was portrayed as Britain's next maritime hero, and it will not be long before that starts to sit a touch heavily.

He is at least aware of the potential problem. 'I want to make sure I have a success in big-boat racing soon or I will have to question what I do. I have been close to winning, but I haven't actually done it yet. If we had done well here it would have been a good stepping stone, but I don't think what has happened will have an adverse affect.'

What has happened here has been a disqualification, a last, a second last and a second. But there are reasons.

For the second Admiral's Cup in succession Childerley has been handed an opportunity which smacks more of poisoned chalice.

Two years ago, political bickering ruined any chance Wings Of Oracle had, while this time he was able to pair his boat and crew together just three days before the first race. 'If we had had another month we could have changed the set-up but now our options are really limited,' he said.

He has also had to compromise on his crew, as the boat's Turkish owner insisted on some of his regular crew being involved when he chartered the boat to the British team. 'We are teaching them the basics as we go, but at least the learning curve for them is very steep,' Childerley said.

Now his own learning curve needs to take a new direction, and he would like to start soon. 'As a career move I have to do a Whitbread (round the world race). I really like the prospect of racing against a boat for day after day, pushing as hard as you can,' he said.

'Pushing hard' is a phrase he uses a lot, rather like a former Formula One motor racing champion now in IndyCar racing in the States. And Childerley has the same reputation for aggressive, sometimes reckless racing as the young Nigel Mansell. The barging which got him disqualified in the first race was pure Mansell. And certainly, that final duck and dive for the line had all the hallmarks. Even if it was only to avoid last place. 'Saved the day,' he said with a weary grin.