Sailing: World Cup hit by US mischief: American switch reduces the British presence at Australian regatta

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The Independent Online
THE Australian opening leg of the International Yacht Racing Union's 1994 World Cup series has started here, despite the attempts of America's sailing authorities to wreck it. It is a brave experiment in bringing lots of individual events together under one roof, but the overseas response has been patchy.

British representation is strictly limited. The Royal Yachting Association has chosen instead to send its Olympic squad, coaches and a container-load of support to Miami as they think the conditions there will more closely resemble those they will meet in Savannah, Georgia - the sailing venue for the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.

The dilemma arose because the US Sailing Association brought its regatta date for Olympic classes forward from the third week in February to the last week in January. The Australians are not pleased but, although they enjoy the backing of the IYRU, they know that the clash of dates will not lead to action being taken against the Americans.

The Victorian Yachting Council has tried to attract not only the Olympic classes but many others and to persuade organising clubs to co-operate in putting on racing for 19 classes, with nearly 1,500 competitors from 17 countries, including 200 from overseas. Among them is Britain's David Bedford in the J24 world championship.

They have been enthusiastically backed by the new government of Victoria, which is aware that other Australian states, especially New South Wales in the run-up to Sydney 2000, will be looking enviously at their hosting what is one of eight annual World Cup events.

The man charged with co-ordinating the 10 clubs actually running the races and the 10 local councils that govern them, and the search for 24 co-sponsors under the leadership of Nissan, is Campbell Rose, executive director of the VYC.

'We believe we have one of the best regatta tracks in the world,' said Rose, who represented Australia in the Olympic Finn and in rugby union at under-17, under-19 and under-21 levels. 'Port Phillip Bay has good breezes, negligible tides, and relatively flat water.'

Although this first international regatta is spread over nearly five weeks, the next three will be condensed into 16 days and greater emphasis will be given to the Olympic classes. Rose's organisation has had to tread carefully in order not to frighten its member clubs into thinking that big brother is taking over.

'We have tried to make them players on a bigger stage,' said Rose, who put up a five-year development programme to the VYC before being given the go-ahead.

The message to the rest of the world is clear. Strength in numbers can mean success in terms of financial support and Rose is determined that his Australian event shall rival European regattas at Kiel, Medemblik and Hyeres.

The shake-up on the maxi La Poste in the Whitbread Round the World Race which saw Daniel Malle ousted as skipper but staying on board as crew for the man he nominated to succeed him, Eric Tabarly, is now complete. Jacques Delorme, Marc Guillemot, and Nicolas Raynaud, alongside the navigator, Halvard Mabire, have been drafted in to replace the mutineers who abandoned the boat. Murray Ross joins Ross Field's Yamaha as tactician for the third leg to Auckland, which starts on Sunday. Another New Zealander, Dale Tremain, joins Hetman Sahaidachny as helmsman, and Dennis Conner has confirmed he will be sailing the third leg on board Winston.