Sailing: Silk Cut holds off pack of pursuers

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The Independent Online
IN temperatures approaching 100F down below and in burning sun and soaking humidity up on deck, Britain's Silk Cut was watching her rivals close the gap yesterday on the sixth leg of the Whitbread race. Lawrie Smith still had a 2.7-mile advantage with the chasing group of four shuffling and reshuffling their places behind him.

Without full satellite communications, Silk Cut's crew were not always sure where they stood or what the others were doing, but it was for everyone a routine of constant sail changing to match the up and down puffs of wind and squalls.

With the effect of the doldrums yet to be felt strongly, the fleet continued to make faster than predicted progress as it lined itself up for what could virtually be a restart in the tradewinds, which will take them up through the Caribbean.

Most relaxed about the lottery factor was the overall leader, Paul Cayard, although he admitted: "This light-airs running is not EF Language's forte." On the threatening Chessie Racing, the watch captain, Fuzz Spanhake, reported that being "surrounded by thunderstorms, lightning, and heavy rain" had provided one of the race's most interesting nights.

WHITBREAD ROUND THE WORLD RACE Sixth leg (4,750miles, Sao Sebastiao, Bra, to Fort Lauderdale, Fla): Position at 1200GMT: 1 Silk Cut (GB) 3024.1 miles to finish; 2 Toshiba (US) 2.7 miles behind leader; 3 Chessie Racing (US) +6.2; 4 EF Language (Swe) +6.4; 5 Innovation Kvaerner (Nor) +7.1; 6 Merit Cup (Monaco) +13.4; 7 BrunelSunergy (Neth) +115.9; 8 EF Education (Swe) +21.3; 9 Swedish Match (Swe) +33.7.