Weather system may prove a boon to Fanstone

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The "baptism of fire" which has seen heavy winds and choppy seas give the crew of Grant Dalton's Amer Sports One two testing days in the Volvo Ocean Race may turn to times which are rather too relaxing over the weekend.

The fleet is spread over 40 miles from first to last in terms of distance to the finish of the opening leg from Southampton to Cape Town, but that does not tell the whole story. A new weather pattern was due to make for easier conditions overnight, but it may not spread its favours equally.

The leader of the last two days, John Kostecki, in the German entry, illbruck, was also one of those well to the east of the pack waiting to see how quickly the new weather system coming in from the west would develop. If it makes its way slowly over the fleet, then those already in the west will have a few hours advantage as they start to head diagonally across the Atlantic towards Brazil.

That would mean that the only British skipper, Jez Fanstone, in News Corp, would be able to cash in the gamble he and the navigator Ross Field have made. Hedging his bets by taking a more middle course, Dalton, in the German Frers Jr-designed Amer Sports One, would relish the opportunity to power up a fast reaching boat. But he is wary, saying yesterday: "We expect conditions will be very tricky and it will be easy to make a wrong move and lose some miles." He and his navigator Roger Nilson expect a few days of lighter winds and that may mean that the overall time to Cape Town will be stretched by a couple of days. Some fast work now and an easy crossing of the Doldrums could have seen them home by 21 October. Now the Volvo race office is predicting 23 October.

VOLVO OCEAN RACE First leg (7,350 nautical miles, Southampton to Cape Town): 1 illbruck (J Kostecki) 6,533 miles to finish; 2 Tyco (K Shoebridge) 6,535; 3 Amer Sports One (G Dalton) 6,537; 4 Assa Abloy (R Heiner) 6,539; 5 News Corp (J Fanstone), 6,547; 6 SEB (Gunnar Krantz) 6,552; 7 Amer Sports Too (L McDonald) 6,568; 8 djuice (K Frostad) 6,573.