Sailing: Read protest cannot stop Smith's progress

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The Independent Online
GREAT BRITAIN'S Admiral's Cup team started yesterday with a slender but morale-boosting lead only to end it awaiting the outcome of a protest. Even if the worst were to befall them tomorrow, however, they would still go into the deciding 400-mile finale Wolf Rock Race in equal second place with Europe on 97 points, one point behind the Dutch.

At the front, trying to keep everything on course, was the 36ft Barlo Plastics. A fourth win in seven starts plus a fourth in the first of two inshore races, kept them as the top-scoring boat both in their Mumm 36 class and for their country.

Behind them, the 40ft Nautica, with Chris Law and Graham Bailey in charge, was having a horror show of a day. They trailed to sixth in the first zig-zag race, sailed in the western Solent in a breeze oscillating between 12 and 20 knots.

They would have been glad even of that in a dismal second race in which they were last by more than six minutes when they dropped their masthead spinnaker and wrapped it round the keel. Law and Bailey were facing disqualification over a threatened protest. That at least was resolved amicably.

Also facing a protest was the 50ft Venture 99. Lawrie Smith had already survived two mediocre attempts to start the first race after both had been abandoned, but he could still only manage fifth at the end. That race was won in emphatic style for the United States by Kenny Read, whose crew had to scramble over to Hamble and pick up their much-repaired boat in time to race.

Read then faced another hectic set of repairs after tangling with Smith while nearing the end of the first leg of the second race when he had right of way. Smith said he had a stalled rudder when trying to avoid Read and voluntarily took a 360-degree penalty turn to finish in eighth place. The American skipper was initially not placated and wanted the jury to impose further punishment. Later, however, a more relaxed Read said: "We have renamed our boat Pin Cushion. We have also asked for redress because of the collision. That's why we had to protest the British. We're not mad at them for hitting us. We've all made mistakes."

Smith explained: "We had already nearly rammed Germany's Rubin and I had the wheel fully locked over. The only way was to dump everything. We made a mistake."

Britain's team manager, Harry Cudmore, added: "We're all starting the long race level. If I was a betting man I wouldn't bet against us."

Earlier, Law had supported a protest against Germany's Thomas Friese by the Australians which led to Friese's 40ft MK Cafe being disqualified from second in the short offshore race.

ADMIRAL'S CUP (Cowes): Race six 50ft class: 1 Idler (US); 2 Innovision (Neth); 3 Breeze (It); 5 Venture (GB). Sydney 40: 1 MK Cafe (Ger); 2 Breeze (It); 3 Blan (Fr); 7 Nautica (GB). Mumm 36: 1 Jeantex (Ger); 2 Ciao Baby (US); 3 Breeze (It); 4 Barlo Plastics (GB). Race seven 50s: 1 Innovision; 2 Quest (Aus); 3 Rubin (Ger); 7 Venture. 40s: 1 MK; 2 Breeze; 3 Merit Cup (Europe); 9 Nautica. 36s: 1 Barlo Plastics; 2 Mean Machine (Neth); 3 Breeze. Overall (subject to protests): 1 Great Britain 93pts; 2 Netherlands 96; 3 Europe 97; 4 Germany 108.5; 5 United States 113.5; 6 Italy 114; 7 Australia 134; 8 Commonwealth 187; 9 France 218.