Sailing: McDonald rides luck to outwit pack

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The Independent Online

The dice were still rolling for Neal McDonald last night as he played cat and mouse with the opposition to keep Assa Abloy in the lead on the third leg of the Volvo Ocean Race from Sydney to Auckland. But he could afford a small grin as he saw the majority of the chasing pack bunched in a patch of light air and edged out a 17-mile lead from his nearest rival, Grant Dalton in Amer Sports One.

McDonald credited both luck and the astute close quarters racing ability of the helmsman and tactician Chris Larson to outwit the pack of six bunched together over the last few miles of the 630-mile run south to Tasmania.

"We realise it is a long leg and an awful lot of changes are going to come," said McDonald. "The weather is not looking rosy for any of us. It's going to be light and variable for all of us as we approach New Zealand." At least things were improving for his wife Lisa. The skipper of the all-women crew on Amer Sports Too had seen the fleet stretch its lead to over 350 miles as the boat was lifted out of the water for repairs to a rudder damaged by a collision with a shark. The boat restarted yesterday after using the last hours of local daylight to check that all was well.

As Assa cashed in on a move to the north which left them in better wind than their rivals, navigator Mark Rudiger was able to breathe a sigh of relief that a tactical move which had first dropped them from first to fourth had this time paid off.

The quartet of Kevin Shoebridge's Tyco, Jez Fanstone in News Corp, John Kostecki in illbruck and Knut Frostad in djuice were all within sight of each other in much lighter conditions.