Crews may face further mileage

Sailing

As if life were not hard enough, the 14 yachts starting the second leg of the BT Challenge from Rio de Janeiro to Wellington today have been told they may have to do an extra 600 miles if it looks as though they are going too fast and will arrive ahead of what appears to be an all-important timetable.

As the crews are all paying to make the trip of their dreams around Cape Horn this is something of a mixed blessing. By the time they have endured the sort of bashing that sailing uphill, against the currents and winds, which is the essence of this adventure, they may be quite keen to shorten the 6,600 miles rather than lengthen the misery.

But they had such a trouble-free run from Southampton to Rio that Mike Golding brought his Group 4 across the finish three days ahead of expectations. The worst buffeting was in the Solent at the start and, like the Vendee Globe singlehanders now crossing the equator, they were hardly troubled by the infamous, but not always inactive, Doldrums.

So they will all have to wait until after rounding the Horn to see whether they go direct to Wellington or receive radio instructions to go round a point 50 degrees south, 170 degrees east on the chart, to which they navigate using their satellite positioning systems. This is in order to ensure that the competitors arrive on 30 December.

Golding's lead on second-placed Simon Walker (Toshiba) is just two hours and nine minutes. Fears that he might be held up while keel repairs were completed were dismissed yesterday, as were claims that there had been delays in reporting the damage.

So battle will be rejoined, with Chris Tibbs, nearly another nine hours behind in Concert, determined to close the gap and justify his place as the skippers' choice as dark horse. Pre-start favourite to set the pace, Richard Tudor (Nuclear Electric) has to make up over 40 hours on Golding in conditions where gear damage and crew sickness can make a big impact. The course was relatively benign in 1992, yet saw one dismasting and three others severely impaired. It can still serve up some of the nastiest seas in the world.

BT GLOBAL CHALLENGE Leg 1 (Southampton to Rio de Janeiro); 1 M. Golding (Group 4) 26 days 3 hr 47min 15sec; 2 S Walker (Toshiba) 26:5:56.16; 3 C Tibbs 26 14 52 23; 4 A Hindley (Save the Children) 26:22:5.39; 5 R Merriweather (Commercial Union) 27:6:58.49; 6 D Tomkinson (3Com) 27:9:34.38; 7 M Lodge (Motorola) 27:14:30.55; 8 A Donovan (Heath Insured) 27:16:32.3; 9 P Bennett (Ocean Rover) 27:18:29.48; 10 R Tudor (Nuclear Electric) 27:20:30.15.

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