Sailing: Smith making waves after his tactical error

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The Independent Online
ON A hostile track and in testing winds the Melges 24 world championship began to settle into an Anglo-American confrontation here yesterday, though Italy's 1996 European champion, Giorgio Zuccoli, would disagree.

After a breezy first day and stiff overnight winds, Torbay was in choppy mood for the second pair of races, which saw the present UK national champion, Rob Smith, fast out of the blocks in Henri Lloyd. But he could not control the chasing Americans - "I failed to listen to my tactician Freddie Blencke at the bottom of the first spinnaker run," he said afterwards - and was hunted down first by Brian Porter and then Vince Brun.

Eventually he was pushed to seventh but came back strongly in the second to make it four winners from four races. The easterly wind had eased from 15 to 10 knots, but the confused waves were still big. The bonus for Smith, apart from moving to fourth overall, was a clean start in clear wind and the choice of the favoured left-hand side of the course up the first leg.

With 93 boats on a line split in two, with two outer boats pivoting on the main committee boat, that start was crucial.

"We were crowded out of the start of the second race and very cautious about being too early," said Porter, the new overall leader. "But we made a tremendous recovery and, despite finishing 12th, know we could have been in the top five with a little more luck."

Brun has his own problems, with a badly sprained back, as he skippers a British crew including 1996 Olympic silver medallist Ian Walker. Completing the 10 races will be a test in itself.

But Porter is going well, as is the third overall Scotsman Kevin Sproul, who had been joint leader with the now second-placed Zuccoli at the end of the first day.

"The big waves meant big rewards if you picked up the rhythm and worked them hard downwind," Sproul said. "It feels like we've done a championship already. The beats are really hard work and one mistake is immediately punished by a handful of lost places."

MELGES 24 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP: Race 3: 1 B Porter (US); 2 V Brun (US); 3 V Stosek (Ger). British: 6 T Wetherell, 7 R Smith (GB). Race 4: 1 Smith; 2 Wetherell; 3 Brun. Other British: 5 R Peacock, 7 C McLaughlin and I Southworth, 8 D Sowry. Provisional overall after four races: 1 Porter (US) 32.7 pts; 2 G Zuccoli (It) 34.7; 3 K Sproul (GB) 49.7; 4 R Smith (GB) 61.

BRITISH AMERICAN CUP (Cowes, after two days, 7 races): Race 4: GB 14pts, US 22.25pts; Race 5: GB 10pts, US 26.25pts; Race 6: GB 11pts, US 25.25pts; Race 7: GB 12pts, US 24.25pts. Overall: 1 GB 83pts; 2 US 170.25pts.

Other results, Digest, page 29