Holders capitalise on home waves

HONGKONG'S quest to win yachting's second-oldest trophy after the America's Cup - the Seawanhaka Cup - fell victim to the fickle wind shifts on the Derwent River in Tasmania, Australia yesterday.

Holders the Royal Hobart Yacht Club, led by skipper Nick Rodgers, took full advantage of home-town knowledge to breeze through the opening day of round-robin competition with four wins from four starts.

A Royal Hongkong Yacht Club-sponsored team of Lawrence Mead, Gray Gibson and Craig Escott are tied for second place with the American team led by Glen Foster with one win each.

Foster is representing the Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club of New York which first offered the trophy in 1895.

It has been contested on a match racing challenge basis ever since in a variety of one-class craft.

The Tasmanian series is being sailed in Dragon Class craft.

Hongkong's leading match racing sailor Mead said from Hobart last night that a massive 90-degree wind shift denied him a win in the first race against Rodgers yesterday.

''We won the start, had him well covered and looked well set to record a win until the shift came,'' said Mead.

We went from ahead to behind,'' he added.

''The fact that Rodgers won all his races indicates local knowledge is a big factor because there's no difference in boat speed,'' he added.

Both Mead and Foster must beat Rodgers today to deny the Australians victory.

And then Mead must beat Foster in their match race later in the day to ensure a sail-off against Rodgers for the Cup.

''We are going to shadow Rodgers all the way today. We plan to win the start then not let him get any more than six feet away from us so he can exploit the wind shifts,'' said Mead.

''We will sail aggressively.'' Mead finished equal second to Rodgers when the Seawanhaka Cup was last sailed in Cowes, England in 1989.