Sailing: Solid start gives Bruni Laser lead

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The Independent Online
FRANCESCO BRUNI, of Italy, took the lead on the first day of the Laser European Championship in Hayling Bay yesterday. His two firsts and a second in three starts proved too good for the man chasing him, Britain's Mark Littlejohn.

Littlejohn had held the lead jointly with Bruni after two races but was eighth in his division in a truncated third race. Mark Stenhouse also secured a top-six position for Britain on a day when the defending champion, John Harrysson of Sweden, went into the changing-room in 20th position.

Already a popular 'off the beach' boat, the Laser's selection for the 1996 Olympic Games has intensified competition at the top. The single sail, single-handers may all look alike on the water, but the boat park at Hayling Island Sailing Club, jammed with national team support vans and Olympic squad coach boats, underlines the level of programme into which this regatta fits, just ahead of the first mid-term sailing World Championships in La Rochelle at the end of the month.

'We have been training hard at this venue for this regatta and early indications are that it should pay off,' John Derbyshire, the Royal Yachting Association's Olympic single-hander coach, said. 'You cannot pick out any country as the main threat. If it is light, the Italians will be strong. But the Swedes, Norwegians, French, Dutch and Germans have individuals capable of posing a threat. With such a long series, we will also have to see who can overcome any setbacks or bad results.'

After one general recall for Group One in the first of three starts for a fleet of 118, split into six groups, all managed to judge the tide and softening breeze. But that led to the third race being cut short after one circuit of the course. And the tidal factor will continue to dominate tactics all week, with a forecast of continuing light airs.