Sailing: 'Green giants' claim lead

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The Independent Online

Fresh breezes sent the 14-strong fleet of 60-foot trimarans romping away from the start in Le Havre yesterday of the double-handed Transat Jaques Vabre race to Bahia Salvador, Brazil.

In the leading group – but facing a protest after tangling at the turning buoy with Franck Proffit in Sergio Tacchini – was Britain's Ellen MacArthur, partnering Alain Gautier in Foncia Kingfisher, but making speeds of 20 knots the leading trio of "green giants" was Loick Peyron in Fujifilm, Luc Nelias in Belgacom and Franck Cammas in Groupama. This was in contrast to the sunbathed, but light airs, start of the Open 60 and 50 monohulls on Saturday. But by yesterday afternoon Mike Golding and Marcus Hutchinson in Ecover were pleased with their fourth position as they had worked their way west first to the stronger winds.

Still in the lead was Roland Jourdain, with Bernard Stamm second and the Kingfisher pairing of Mark Turner and Nick Moloney third. Just eight miles covered the top four boats.

The dust is still settling in Cape Town on the sacking of Roy Heiner and his replacement as skipper of Assa Abloy by Britain's Neal McDonald. Heiner had been disappointed about finishing fifth in the first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race from Southampton to Cape Town after being firmly in second place. It was at the turn east around the Ihla de Trinidade that there had been a major tactical difference of opinion between him and his co-skipper, the navigator Mark Rudiger. It was Rudiger who prevailed and he admitted it was a mistake at the end of the leg.

But it is Heiner who has been removed on the grounds that his leadership was not up to scratch. McDonald, whose wife Lisa is skipper of the all-woman Amer Sports Too crew, is not, however, given the full backing of a management team led by Johan Salen, who put together the winning EF Language team in the last race. That was skippered by Paul Cayard, with Rudiger, once again, as navigator.

Cayard has recently been excluded by the second-richest man in the world, Larry Ellison, from the management of the San Francisco-based Oracle Racing challenge for the America's Cup. His telephone has been busy with offers from Volvo syndicates, including a call from Assa Abloy. But he is still under contract to Ellison and, just to complicate things further, is a non-executive director of Nautor Challenges, which has entered both Lisa McDonald's boat and second-placed Grant Dalton on Amer Sports One.

Still in a deep huddle is the emaciated and dejected crew the Norwegian entry, djuice. Seventh at the end of a frustrating first leg, they spent 12 straight hours in a debriefing session, but the "major changes" promised by skipper Knut Frostad have yet to be revealed. Frostad needs to make up his mind. The fleet starts the second, 6,500-mile leg through the Southern Ocean to Sydney on Sunday.

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