Testing day for British boats

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The Independent Online
On a difficult day for the three-boat British team in the Admiral's Cup, there was the additional problem of a protest hanging over their heads.

But after two hard thrashes up and down the breezy, gear-testing waters of Christchurch Bay, they were hanging on to second place overall. The Americans were stretching out ahead of them, the New Zealanders breathing down their necks.

Britain's best hope of valuable points, Tim Barratt's 36ft Bradamante, faced a complaint from Italy's 40-footer Brava, New Zealand's Mean Machine had a problem with Graham Walker's 45-foot Corum Indulgence, and the Americans on Flash Gordon took exception to Tony Buckingham's 40-foot Easy Oars.

The Bradamante incident occurred after John Merricks and Ian Walker had recovered from the disappointment of a wipe-out on the first spinnaker run of the first race when lying joint first and then battled their way back up to third.

Brava was also protesting against Georgia Express for the same incident as Bradamante, although the skipper David Barnes took a precautionary 720-degree penalty turn. It was not his day as, in the second race, he lost the halyard for his mainsail and had first to sail only with a small jib, then rig a storm trysail in order at least to finish and so save 1.25 points.

That was more than Norway's King Harald was able to do on his 40-footer Fram, which, because of mast problems, could not compete in the second race of the day as the breeze piped up to 26 knots and hovered just north of east.

Chris Law, skipper of Corum Indulgence, was spitting at losing third place in the first race of the day by just six seconds, first to Jochen Schumann of Germany in Rubin, then to Flash Gordon.

The American 49-footer is locked in a battle not just with New Zealand's Numbers, but between the two pairings of Kenny Read and Jim Brady, and Russell Coutts and Brad Butterworth. The Americans, who lost the America's Cup to the Kiwis, are determined not to be knocked out of the Admiral's Cup.

First blood went to Numbers, as Flash fizzled to fourth, but the Americans won the return by 43 seconds from Numbers as Corum Indulgence, despite having a less tidy race, took a well- deserved third.

Helping New Zealand's charge up the points table were two wins by Tom Dodson in Mean Machine, although Britain's Easy Oars scored a fifth and then a third after leading for some time.