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1971: Admiral's Cup triumph for Heath

The Prime Minister, Edward Heath, has steered the British Admiral's Cup team to victory at the helm of his 42-foot yacht, Morning Cloud.

Mr Heath sailed in to Plymouth at 1700 BST at the end of the punishing 605-mile long Fastnet race to cheers from a crowd of onlookers.

The five-day race took him from Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, to the Fastnet Rock off southern Ireland and back to Plymouth.


"I am absolutely delighted we won. It has been a team effort throughout."

Prime Minister Edward Heath

The Morning Cloud was the last of the three British yachts to return, in 14th place overall, but with enough points to secure the return of the Admiral's Cup to Britain.

Looking jubilant as he stepped on to dry land, Mr Heath told waiting reporters, "I am absolutely delighted we won. It has been a team effort throughout."

During the race, Mr Heath has had to weather storms not only in the Atlantic Ocean, but also from critics at home who have condemned his decision to stay in the race despite a growing crisis in Northern Ireland.

The decision by Northern Ireland's Prime Minister, Brian Faulkner, to impose internment of suspected terrorists without trial was taken while Mr Heath was still at sea, and the Home Secretary and acting Prime Minister, Reginald Maudling, has had to deal with the emergency in his place.

At a news conference shortly after his arrival at Plymouth, Mr Heath refused to discuss Northern Ireland, saying only that he had been kept closely informed of events by radio link.

It was left to his press officer, Henry James, to explain that all decisions on the government's course of action had been taken before Mr Heath sailed.

He said the prime minister went on board the Morning Cloud as planned to avoid raising the alarm that something unusual was afoot.

There were contingency plans in place to lift Mr Heath off the yacht by helicopter, but if that had happened, the Morning Cloud would have been disqualified and Britain's chances of winning the Admiral's Cup would have virtually disappeared.

As it was, Britain was 43 points clear of the previous holders of the Admiral's Cup, the United States, in second place, and Australia in third.


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