Sailing: Smith weathers the final storm

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The Independent Online
AFTER 15 years of seeing Britain's top match-racing prize go overseas, if you count Harold Cudmore's Irishness as such, Lawrie Smith yesterday brought it back home, beating Ian Southworth in an all-Lancastrian final of the Wightlink Lymington Cup here. Phil Crebbin last did it in 1977.

Whether the points in the 10-regatta Omega World Match-Racing Conference will do him any good or not, it was a useful work- out for Barcelona later this month, where Smith, with two of the crew with him on the 35-foot Beneteau, represents Britain in the Soling class, which will use match-racing for the first time to decide the medals.

Lymington had not been an easy ride. Although many leading competitors were at rival regattas in France and Germany, the racing was always close. Smith, still more of a natural fleet-racer, had to lift his game even to make the semi-final cut on a tie-break, but from then on he could smell glory and that was more important than the first prize of pounds 2,000.

Smith was over the line at the start of his opening skirmish in the final, leaving Southworth the relatively simple job of covering Smith in the fresh, slightly shifting, south-westerly to win by 39 seconds.

In the second, Smith had the start he wanted, hitting the line at speed and safely to leeward of Southworth, only to see Southworth come back at him, enjoy slightly the better of the oscillating wind, and lead him by eight seconds at the top.

Smith attacked back, rolled over the top of Southworth on the first spinnaker run, during which Southworth holed his spinnaker executing a messy gybe, and regained a six-second lead turning into the second lap, which he extended to 13 by the finish. In the driving rain of the third, Smith again controlled the start, weathered a flurry of tacks and put Southworth away to win the Cup by a satisfying 37 seconds.

In the first race of the day, Smith had trounced the highly fancied Peter Holmberg, of the Virgin Islands, to secure his place in the final. Southworth, who had also won his opening semi-final race on Thursday evening, almost laid down and died for Roy Heiner, of the Netherlands, in the second, forcing a deciding race.

WIGHTLINK LYMINGTON CUP Semi-finals (best of 3): L Smith (GB) bt P Holmberg (Virg Is) 2-0; I Southworth (GB) bt R Heiner (Neth) 2-1. Sail-off: Holmberg bt Heiner. Final (best of 3): Southworth bt Smith, 39sec; Smith bt Southworth, 12sec; Smith bt Southworth, 37sec.