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23 July 2001, 02:54 pm
Practice For Americas Cup
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Qantas America Classic Cup
Solent

The final day of the Qantas America Classic Cup again provided spectators with the opportunity to see a fleet of America's Cup yachts racing in the Western Solent.
Peter Harrison's GBR Challenge won the only race of the day, after some intense early tussles with High Voltage. The fleet started in 10 knots of Westerly breeze, with the line positioned to the east of the Royal Solent Yacht Club, close to the island shore.

Once again the start was competitive, with Italia crossing the line slightly early. GBR 41 and High Voltage crossed moments after the gun was fired, with the British America's Cup team close to the island shore and John Caulcutt's ACC yacht in the middle of the line.

As GBR 41 tacked onto port tack, the wind shifted to the left and ensured that she would not be able to cross the fleet. Instead, Harrison's team was forced to bear away dramatically to duck High Voltage, leaving the British America's Cup crew in second place. High Voltage immediately tacked to cover and led the fleet up the two and a half mile windward leg.

GBR 41 continued to put pressure on High Voltage, tacking 25 times up the shore, and appeared to have gained the initiative as the yachts converged with GBR 41 on starboard. High Voltage narrowly escaped, but as the yachts passed the Royal Solent Yacht Club, GBR 41 took the lead, clearing High Voltage whilst on port tack. From there, the GBR Challenge team tacked up the shore, and extended their lead.

Once around the windward mark, GBR Challenge skipper Julian Salter initially opted for the right hand side of the course but High Voltage decided to take the left. GBR 41 then came back to the left hand side, to cover the fleet. Initially holding a two boat length lead, the British America's Cup team soon pulled away and had an eight boat length lead. From there, the team extended their lead to take the race comfortably and win the Qantas America Classic Cup Regatta with five wins from the five races.

Salter was clearly pleased with the performance of the crew: "The early battle was good to focus the crew. We worked really hard to get past High Voltage and then we were really revved up for the rest of the race.

"The regatta was definitely a useful exercise for us. It gave the opportunity for the whole of the sailing team to do some racing against other ACC boats, rather than just against ourselves. Some people have been working really hard in the yard recently so it was good for them to get out and race. It also let us get GBR 41 up to speed for our evening racing during Skandia Life Cowes Week, and let the other British based ACC yachts prepare for the America's Cup Jubilee.

"We're still learning every time we go out, and racing focuses that even more. In particular for Greg Searle and Ian Weighell, as this was their first ever series of races. Both did really well. They're sailors now rather than rowers out training with us. They get involved in every area, such as boat preparation, and are fiercely competitive."

Salter also praised the Royal Solent Yacht Club. "The Race Committee was very good at tailoring courses to suit the fleet, whilst the club gave us a very friendly and enjoyable event."

Results:

1. GBR 41. GBR Challenge. 4 points.
2. USA. High Voltage. 8 points.
3. FRA 3. 12 points.
4. FRA 2. 16 points.
5. ITA. Italia. 17 points.

Mark Bullingham/News Editor
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