Smith's cup credentials take a dip

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The Independent Online
Nigel Northridge probably thought his race at the Royal North of Ireland Yachting Club would be plainer sailing than usual. After all, persuading Lawrie Smith, the British Olympian and Whitbread Round the World race skipper, to guide your boat should be enough to guarantee victory at a club competition in Cultra, County Down.

The Whitbread, a 31,000-mile marathon, starts on 21 September. The financial wind in the sails of Smith's entry, Silk Cut, is provided by Gallagher, the tobacco manufacturers, and Smith was appearing at Cultra as a favour to Northridge, Gallagher's senior marketing director.

With Smith at the helm, Northridge's 18ft squib took an immediate lead, and the race seemed over. Northridge, reflecting on a successful day's sailing, could rest assured that Gallagher's sponsorship input was in the hands of a reliable skipper. What Northridge did not account for was the human element. Smith, in one of those off-days at the office, lent over too far and capsized. After 15 minutes of sailing, it was an inauspicious omen for the nine-month-long Whitbread race.