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O'Leary shows old-salt sibling his star potential

Ireland's Olympic Star class duo -- Peter O'Leary of Cork and David Burrows of Malahide -- have been putting on an impressive show at the front of the 67-boat fleet in the 85th Bacardi Cup in Florida, racing their new P-Star boat, developed in Germany by Marc Pickel.

As a bonus, there have been good placings for the younger O'Leary brother, Nicholas. He had been recruited to sail a pacing boat to help the senior crew tune up their new machine, which was literally hot out of the moulding box only a fortnight ago.

As a reward for his efforts, young 'Nin' was made an entrant in the main event. Crewed by Rodney Hagbols, he has shown some old salts that the mystique of the venerable Star class may be slightly exaggerated. In his first major event with the class, at mid regatta he was lying 12th overall on a scoreline of 18, 5, and 14.

Fortunately for the sibling relationship, older brother Peter has been making hay. It didn't start well, as he took the wrong side of the first beat in Race 1 and rounded the weather mark in 30th. But the O'Leary-Burrows team were only getting going -- by the finish, they'd clawed their way up to eighth, and were just itching for more.

However, strong onshore winds saw the sailing postponed two days running. When racing did resume on a revised two-races-a-day format, conditions were, as Peter O'Leary put it, "interesting -- a bit tricky with big waves". Maybe so, but they revelled in it to score a first and a fourth, moving into second overall behind Poland's Mateusz Kusnierewicz and Dominik Zycki, world champions in 2008. The series concludes today.

Meanwhile, Damian Foxall and his shipmates on Groupama are well on track to win the 5,000-mile Sanya-Auckland Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race this weekend. A calculated early gamble tacking to the northeast -- painfully increasing the distance they've had to sail to New Zealand -- has become a key move, giving them a lead of 100 miles-plus.

The weather in the southwest Pacific Ocean is moody, and then some. New Zealand has experienced its worst summer for years, with recent extremes including winds above 70 knots. There's a deepening low over towards Australia, and the Volvo racers experienced rough conditions yesterday, beating towards the City of Sails.

For many of the crews, it will be a homecoming -- sailing is both a popular sport and an industry in Auckland. Ten years have elapsed since the Round the World race last made a stopover here, so the party (with St Patrick's Day the highlight) is already under way -- it's just that the stars of the show are running a bit late.

They've taken about three days longer than expected, so food is running short on the boats, and tempers are stretched where the winds have been disobliging. But for Groupama, it has been one of those races where one success has built on another -- even the Doldrums didn't delay them unduly.

Unless there's a serious breakage, Groupama is virtually uncatchable. The real battle is now for second and third, with Chris Nicholson's Camper, Iker Martinez with Telefonica and Kenny Read with Puma slugging it out in ferocious conditions. Lighter winds should arrive soon, though, reinforcing Groupama's lead, and delaying the finish of tailenders Abu Dhabi and the Chinese-Irish veteran boat Sanya, which had been hanging in very well.

Irish Independent