Sailing: McDonald staying clear of the pack

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Three races have developed on the third leg of the Volvo Ocean Race from Sydney to Auckland and each is at the mercy of the rapid weather changes. The leader, Neal McDonald, was protecting his 44-mile advantage in Assa Abloy over Grant Dalton in Amer Sports One, the Kiwi chasing for his third consecutive leg win into his home town of Auckland while covering the three chasing yachts behind him.

The trio of John Kostecki's illbruck, Jez Fanstone's News Corp and Kevin Shoebridge's Tyco were separated by two miles. They finally hooked into the north-westerly which Assa's navigator Mark Rudiger had been sure would develop. This had driven his tactical thinking since the yacht won line honours in the Sydney to Hobart Race, which formed the first part of the Volvo third leg.

Despite dense fog, this had piped up to nearly 20 knots, allowing the yachts to average over 14 knots as they headed straight for Cape Reinga at the tip of New Zealand's North Island. The finish is predicted for Thursday European time, Friday morning locally.

As John Kahlbetzer's 62-foot Bumblebee 5 was confirmed as the IMS handicap winner of the Sydney to Hobart Race there were indications that the Admiral's Cup, cancelled because of a lack of entries in 2001, may be moved from its traditional home of Cowes and relaunched in Dublin in 2003.

VOLVO OCEAN RACE (Leg 3, Sydney to Auckland, 2,050 nautical miles): Positions, with miles to finish: 1 Assa Abloy (N McDonald) 783nm; 2 Amer Sports One (G Dalton) 827; 3= illbruck (J Kostecki), News Corp (J Fanstone) 902; 5 Tyco (K Shoebridge) 904; 6 djuice (K Frostad) 937; 7 Amer Sports Too (L McDonald) 1,191. Retired: SEB.