Sailing: Smith takes his opportunity: Committee decision helps Olympic medallist to victory

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The Independent Online
THE Lawrie Smith international benefit show, this time called the Vauxhall Ultra 30 Grand Prix, was in full flood at Portsmouth yesterday as the Whitbread skipper and Olympic medallist was handed first place on a plate.

Smith missed two of the races on Saturday because of a broken rudder and collision damage but, following a committee decision, he was awarded average points. As he had been first in the first two of yesterday's three races and second in the only race he had completed the day before, that gave him a score which many at Silverstone would love to be able to earn from equipment breakdowns.

With the series sponsor also a competitor, Vauxhall, Smith's backer, looks well- placed to win its own trophy for the four-regatta series and Smith will also want to pocket the raffle of the national championship in late September for good measure.

But the prize for the most improved player yesterday went to the 1988 Olympic representative, Roger Yeoman, sailing Barberry in only his second regatta and, in addition to two seconds, winning the final race.

Most disappointed should be Russell Peters in DBS, robbed of his regatta win by a quirky decision to award high points to people not racing.

The commitment by the BBC to show the series on Grandstand underpins an event that attracts some of the best competitors on the circuit.

There are also hospitality opportunities exploited by the sponsors, which attract an audience who would not normally spend a day watching yacht racing.

This is the fourth year of Ultra 30 sailing in this country and, if anything, it is financially at its strongest, but has been unable to grow beyond six boats or, despite undoubted internal rivalries, break out of the circus image into something which can stir the blood.

Gasps, oohs and aahs there may be occasionally. A full- throated roar there is not, and that is what a formula which undoubtedly has built in many of the essential elements is ultimately required to inspire.

In the BOC Single-handed Transatlantic Race, Neal Petersen, at 26 the youngest competitor, said yesterday that he was taking water in the bow section of his yacht, Protect Our Sea Life, but that the situation was under control. The Class One leader is now Mark Gatehouse in Queen Anne's Battery, while Class Two is led by Nigel Rowe in Skycatcher.

In the World Youth Championships at Marathon Bay, Greece, Britain's Ben Ainslie was lying second in the Laser class after five races. Storm Nuttal and Sally Cuthburt were third in the Laser II class after four races.