Sailing: MacArthur leads after tough start

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The Independent Online

But she was in the lead, five miles ahead of another British solo sailor, Mike Golding, who has Swiss veteran Dominique Wavre to partner him for the 4,340-mile trip to Salvador da Bahia in Brazil. And, when the wind then shifted into the west, they were able to head south at high speed.

Joining them in the top four were Jean-Pierre Dick and Loick Peyron, followed by Jean le Cam and Kito Pavant, who recovered from breaking some stiffening battens in the mainsail. The form book was proving remarkably reliable.

Golding also reported problems with one of his autopilots, but said: "We should be able to fix it. Life is pretty monstrous and bloody windy." The multihull fleet, including 10 of the 60-footers, started yesterday and have a course extended by 1,000 miles around Ascension Island. Their initial problem is sea conditions left over after Saturday night's gales, plus the prospect of a second gale-force front last night.

Also keeping the British flag flying high was Neal McDonald, skipper of the Swedish entry Ericsson in the Volvo Ocean Race. In flukey, light airs he blitzed his five rivals in the opening inshore race on Saturday, bagging 3.5 points, at half a point per place for each of the seven entries.

"We are pretty disappointed," said Mike Sanderson, skipper of one of the offshore favourites, ABN Amro 1. "But we still believe we have the right package for the race. I wouldn't swap it for any other boat." This despite coming last, even being beaten by the ABN Amro youth crew.

The Melbourne boat Premier Challenge could not make the start line and still has many scrutineering hurdles, plus some keel surgery, if it is to make the start of the first leg to Cape Town on Saturday.