Sailing: Henier undone by nature's magic wand

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The Independent Online
The third leg of the Whitbread Round the World Race is proving a frustrating experience.

Stuart Alexander, in Sydney, reports on another day searching for a real racing wind by the nine-boat fleet.

With the yachts spread north to south over 150 miles off the southern coast of Australia, it was Lawrie Smith's turn as the leader of the northern group to enjoy a period of gain yesterday.

Smith's Silk Cut both moved up to second place and cut the lead held by Paul Cayard in EF Language to just over 10 miles.

There are two other boats in Smith's group. Fourth-placed Toshiba has been in constant sight of George Collins' fifth-placed Chessie Racing, but Paul Standbridge, with just over 800 miles to go and averaging nine knots, is already beginning to sniff King Island at the entry to the Bass Straits.

"A land-based Christmas will be fantastic," Toshiba's skipper said, adding that the third leg, while quite different from the fast and freezing conditions of the second leg, "is the closest racing we have had so far."

Standbridge's view is not shared by Grant Dalton, with Merit Cup continuing to experience long periods of being becalmed. "The first boat out of this hole will probably win the leg because there will not be time to catch up again," he said. Merit Cup has slipped to seventh and is in danger of being overtaken by the all-woman crew on EF Education.

"I have said it before, but in this race you do need an element of luck and that seems to be something which refuses to run with this boat," Dalton said.

Roy Heiner, the new skipper of back-marker Brunel Sunergy, had similar grumbles. "Everything we had been working towards for the last four days seems to be altered by mother nature with a swoosh of her magic wand," he said.

Heiner has decided to cut his losses and has turned north to join the main pack. That leaves Knut Frostad in Innovation Kvaerner, whose position has swung between fifth and eighth places, still the most southerly boat.

Cayard seems best able to manufacture his own luck, but EF Language is also making little progress. "This is one tedious leg," he said. "Front after front has fizzled out and we are now engulfed by high pressure."

WHITBREAD ROUND THE WORLD RACE (third leg, 2,250 miles, Fremantle to Sydney): 1 EF Language (Swe) P Cayard 813 miles to finish; 2 Silk Cut (GB) L Smith 10.7 miles behind leader; 3 Swedish Match (Swe) G Krantz 11.9; 4 Toshiba (US) P Standbridge 13.4; 5 Chessie Racing (US) G Collins 15.2; 6 Innovation Kvaerner (Nor) K Frostad 31.9; 7 Merit Cup (Monaco) G Dalton 37.4; 8 EF Education (Swe) C Guillou 38.8; 9 Brunel Sunergy (Neth) R Heiner 40.6.

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