US stake an early claim to cup

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Shovelling some valuable early points into the bank, the United States powered into the lead after the opening pair of races of the Champagne Mumm Admiral's Cup in the Solent yesterday. Predictably, they were chased by Italy and the holders, Germany. The British team put in some good work in the first race but it proved a false dawn as they slid to a sixth, seventh and eighth in the second.

The Mumm 36 Group 4, winner of her class in the first race, was saved from the possibility of being last in the second when the Scandinavian Mumm 36, Skandia, retired with a broken mast for the second time in a week after hooking a mast spreader around the forestay of the Italian boat Capricorno at the start of the second race.

So, at the end of the day, the Americans led with the lowest score of 9.5 points, with Germany second, Italy third and Britain in sixth place.

The morning race was dominated by fluky winds which wound up the nerves of already tense crews and the boat order changed with alarming frequency on the windward legs of a long 14.5-mile course.

But it produced some cheer for Britain as the 40-footer Group 4 Astro, skippered by Harry Cudmore, came home third behind the two who seem set to fight a private duel at the top of the class, Pasquale Landolfi's BravaQ8 for Italy and David Clarke's Pigs in Space for the United States.

"We weren't too bad for pace in those conditions with the new gear and new sails," the skipper Harry Cudmore, said. The crew of Britain's Mumm 36, Group 4, skippered by Mike Golding with David Bedford helming, was even happier. They recovered to win having been last at one point, overtaking the fancied Jim Brady of the United States on the final windward leg.

But the pecking order returned to normal in the second race as Brady led the 36s home in a shorter, sharper race, staged mid-Solent in a freshening south-westerly wind.

In the big-boat class Ireland's Jameson 1 found the legs in the second race to reach the front of the fleet, but not by enough to compensate for a handicap which gives time to all the others. The German boat, Pinta, won the morning race from Blue Yankee after Scandinavia's Mean Machine had first stormed into the lead and then thrown it away by deciding to go the wrong side of a moored ship.

Blue Yankee, with Britons Lawrie Smith and David Howlett on board, was second in the morning.

The fight between BravaQ8, with Paul Cayard alongside helmsman Francesco de Angelis, and Pigs in Space, helmed by Kenny Read, went decisively the way of the Italians as they won by six minutes in the morning and held off a determined challenge in the more even afternoon conditions.

CHAMPAGNE MUMM ADMIRAL'S CUP Class One, Race One: 1 Pinta (Ger), W Illbruck; 2 Blue Yankee (US), R Towse; 3 Capricorno (It), R del Bono. Race Two: 1 Blue Yankee; 2 Pinta; 3 Mean Machine (Scand) J Christensen. ILC 40, Race One: 1 BravaQ8 (It), P Landolfi; 2 Pigs in Space (US), D Clarke; 3 Group 4 Astro (GB), H Cudmore. Race Two: 1 BravaQ8; 2 Pigs in Space; 3 Anemos (Ger), J Schumann. Mumm 36, Race One: 1 Group 4 (GB), M Golding; 2 No Problem (US), J Brady; 3 Thomas I Punkt (Ger), T Friese. Race Two: 1 No Problem; 2 Mumm a Mia! (It), E Warden Owen; 3 Thomas I Punkt. Standings after two races: 1 United States 9.5pts; 2 Germany 17.75; 3 Italy 19.5; 4 South Africa 27; 5 Scandinavia 32; 6 Great Britain 32.75; 7 Ireland 37; 8 Hong Kong 40.