Sailing: Britons storm on

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The Independent Online

Britain's transatlantic sailors were revelling in the beefy conditions of the Jaques Vabre race from Le Havre to Bahia Salvador, Brazil yesterday.

Mike Golding and Marcus Hutchinson had taken the lead in the Open 60s in Ecover and Alex Bennet and Paul Larsen had extended their lead to 43 miles in the Open 50s. Pushing for third in the 60-foot trimarans were Ellen MacArthur and Alain Gautier, but big seas, and even a whale, were threatening damage.

Gales of over 40 knots were giving some a sleigh ride off Cape Finisterre, with Jean le Cam pushing the leading 60-foot trimaran Bonduelle over 500 miles in 24 hours. But behind him Karine Fauconnier had to stop sailing the new Sergio Tacchini after breaking all the battens in her mainsail as the boat lurched and rounded up while she and Franck Proffit struggled with a wayward headsail.

Also suffering broken battens and a shredded gennaker were the Swiss pair of Dominique Wavre and Michele Paret on the Open 60 Temenos. As they were licking their wounds, Hutchinson reported that Ecover was "full on, enjoying very exciting, great sailing.

"But there's little respite," he added. "We have only slept for two hours since the start of the race last Saturday." Also having sleepless moments were Eric Dumont and Javier Sanso on Gartmore after a whale became trapped between the boat's twin rudders. It took the animal nearly half an hour to free itself, although both whale and boat were unharmed.

Chasing hard in the Open 60s are Mark Turner and Nick Moloney in MacArthur's Kingfisher – fifth, but just 18 miles behind Golding and surfing at over 20 knots in the big north-easterly winds.

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