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Sailing: Smith proves class is permanent with world victory

Mr Smith is back in town. Lawrie Smith -- who cut his sailing teeth in Glandore, and has often been part of the summer scene in West Cork -- has made his return to international competitive sailing with a real flourish after an absence of over a dozen years.

He has skippered in a Volvo Ocean Race and was a significant presence in America's Cup campaigns. He also picked up Olympic sailing medals and World Championships.

But since 1999, he has focused on family life and developing business, though sightings have been reported from various events, and last year he had occasional outings in the International Dragon Class, a feature of Glandore sailing.

However, it's a long way from Glandore that has seen sailing's veteran star make his comeback.

Port Phillip Bay at Melbourne in Australia has been the venue for the 2011 Dragon World Cup, a place where they take their Dragon racing very seriously, and it was one serious fleet -- 70 of the world's finest.

Strong breezes of 25 knots are usually the regular fare, but with the rest of Australia enduring meteorological mayhem, the winds were often light, enabling Smith, on the helm of Alfie, to demonstrate his skills in conditions in which he shines best.

That said, he won the world title by just a few yards, taking the minimum required place in the final race by half a boat-length to bring down the heart rate of his crew, Tim Tavinor and Ossie Stewart, and perhaps the pulse of the tough old salt himself.

The fleet in their wake reads like a who's who of sailing. The Irish entrants Andrew Craig, Mark Pettit and Brian Mathews of Dun Laoghaire on Chimaera were in 26th, but at least they'd sailing legends like Australia's Gordon Ingate well astern.

The America's Cup 2013 is really gathering a head of steam now that San Francisco has been selected as the venue and with 72ft catamarans the boat type.

In fact, there has been much preparation already going on behind the scenes, and this week in Auckland in New Zealand, Russell Coutts -- CEO of the America's Cup -- has successfully unveiled the AC45, a miniaturised version of the new America's Cup boats.

The idea is that challengers can take their first steps with this relatively cost-effective craft, and with the tooling in place, 10 more are to follow in series production. Further production is likely as interest is soaring after the unveiling.

Already four campaigns are officially in place for 2013: defenders USA, and challengers Italy, France and Sweden.

The word is the Australian challenge is now virtually official, and there has been firm expressions of interest from Russia, Canada, and Germany. Additional French and Italian teams may compete, while a new British team, an Austrian challenge and another US group headed by Cam Lewis are also said to be potentially in the mix.

If you fancy doing the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race, maybe you've left it too late. With entry possible online and the limit set at 300 boats, the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) were astonished at the speed of the response -- 250 within days -- and the fleet will include Andy Soriano's 68ft Alegre, the best-known design by Mark Mills of Wicklow, and clear overall winner of the Middle Sea Race in 2009.

If you only make it on to the entry waiting list, don't despair. Back in 2007, Ger O'Rourke with Chieftain was 46th on the Fastnet waiting list. But he made it -- and Chieftain went on to be the overall winner.

Irish Independent