Sailing: Revenge for Robertson

Bronze boosts Olympic preparations
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The Independent Online
A SECOND medal for Britain in the World Sailing Championships was both deeply satisfying for the national coach John Derbyshire and a personal triumph for Shirley Robertson.

The 31-year old Scot has worked long and hard on the single-handed Europe circuit and was pipped by just one place in the last race of the 1996 Olympics for the bronze medal. Yesterday she made the vital extra place as Margriet Matthijsse of the Netherlands took gold, and the local expert Melanie Dennison won the silver with a late surge. "Shirley has put a huge amount of effort into this and her success, along with Ben Ainslie's gold in the Laser earlier this week, is a terrific boost for the whole team," Derbyshire said.

Denmark's Stig Westergaard scored a satisfying victory over the triple German gold medallist Jochen Schuemann in a Soling fleet littered with stars. But Britain's 1996 Olympic representative and would-be flag flyer at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Andy Beadsworth, continues his struggle to find his former rhythm, bite and tactical flair. His eighth was less than he is capable of and he will hope to make a better showing in the match racing for the Infanta Christina trophy, this week. Lawrie Smith was 15th.

Overshadowing everything here has been the prospect of the Sydney Games, and British hopes of providing real opposition to the Australians now and next year in the newest of the Olympic classes, the 49er two-handed skiff, took a knock as the defending champion Chris Nicholson and his new crew, Ed Smyth, put on an emphatic display to make it three in a row. Only the third-placed Americans Morgan Larson and Kevin Hall could challenge, as Australia took three of the top four places. The Budgen brothers, Andy and Ian, had looked best British bets but had an out-of-sorts week, finishing 16th overall. That left the top British performers as Paul Brotherton, the 470 helmsman in Barcelona, and Neal McDonald, a former International 14 world champion, in seventh, followed by Tim Robinson and Ian Walker in 14th and national champion Ian Barker in 20th.

There is much work to be done in the 470 class, also, where Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield, both world youth medallists and both under 22, are showing potential. But in the women's division, a tally of 21st, 24th and 29th out of 30 tells a sorry tale.

At least there is time and funding to prepare a real Olympic challenge. But what the Royal Yachting Association manager Rod Carr would like to know is if he is going to lose anyone to Britain's America's Cup challenge. It appeared that there had been a switch in direction last week as the hand of the original managing group, Spirit of Britain, was strengthened. As talks continue with a backer over funding which could run through two campaigns, but would shift some of the control, progress is also being made with a major industrial concern with whom the chairman of Spirit of Britain, Andrew Graves, has long-term links. One way or another, an announcement is imminent.

Not that everything in Melbourne is about the Olympics, though the Solings have another world championship, this time to find the top match racer, this week with Beadsworth pre-nominated as the British representative whether he beat Smith or not.

The biggest fleet of the whole 16 events which make up one of the biggest ever gatherings of world-class events is the Laser Masters, 228 of them in four age bands, Apprentice Masters 35 to 45, Masters 45 to 55, Grand Masters 55 to 65, and Great Grand Masters, 65 until you die. Among them is the once winner and twice runner up in the Whitbread Race, Grant Dalton. But in this game he is an apprentice.

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