Sailing: Bittersweet triumph for Dickson: New Zealand enjoy clean sweep in record-breaking climax to Whitbread Round the World Race as Dalton proves the maxi priest

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The Independent Online
RIDING a wall of spray and the coat-tails of a benevolent gale, Chris Dickson yesterday led a Kiwi clean sweep in a fast, furious and record- breaking finish of the sixth Whitbread Round the World Race.

His 60-foot Tokio won the sixth and final leg in style, Ross Field's Yamaha won the W60 class overall, Grant Dalton won the maxi class and was quickest of the 14 boats around the world in New Zealand Endeavour. Chasing Dickson to the finish was Brad Butterworth, co- skipper, with an absent Dennis Conner, of Winston.

More than 80 miles behind and fourth W60 was Britain's Lawrie Smith, who had taken Intrum Justitia north in an attempt to pick up enough advantage to pull back the 10 hours Field had in the bank at the start of the leg in Fort Lauderdale. The tactical gamble failed. Behind him was the British entry Reebok (formerly Dolphin & Youth), saving its best for last.

It was a bittersweet day for Dickson, who won three of the six legs and been second in two. But the cruel blow of being dismasted on the fifth leg, when he was also well placed, robbed him of any chance of scoring at his first attempt what would have been an impressively organised win.

Ian Stewart, a crew member, described this morning's surf-ride up the Channel as the most exciting bit of sailing in the whole race. In one six-hour stretch overnight the yacht covered 126 miles, an average of 21 knots, and earlier in the leg they missed by just 1.1 miles the 24-hour world record of 428.7 set by Smith at the start of the fourth leg.

Not that Field, who has run a two-boat campaign and always been in the leading group, does not deserve his trophy for a race based on combined time for the whole race, which makes boat preparation and gear reliability crucial.

'All the dreams have been realised after three years of hard work,' Field said. 'I did not doubt we could do it. We were getting better and better. So all credit to the crew. We have fought all the way through and come up trumps.'

The speed at which the fleet covered the final 1,000 miles caught many on the hop and by last night half were sitting gently on their moorings after 32,000 miles of hard racing.

Dickson beat by more than four days the record for the last leg set by Steinlager. So did the next three boats and both Yamaha and Endeavour have lopped eight days off Steinlager's 128 days and nine hours for the circumnavigation.

Dalton said: 'A lot of people said the 60s would beat us round the world and we've proved them wrong. We've won, but it will take some time to sink in. We knew in the last 24 hours that the 60s had the legs on us. When we were doing 18 or 19 knots they were still going away so we decided not to go head to head and took our foot off the throttle a bit.'

The all-woman-crewed backmarker Heineken, which has lost its main rudder and fitted an emergency replacement, is expected to call into Falmouth before completing its journey to Southampton.

WHITBREAD ROUND THE WORLD RACE Sixth leg (Fort Lauderdale to Southampton) Positions with miles to the finish: Maxi class: 1 New Zealand Endeavour, 12 days 22hr 55min 07sec; 2 Merit Cup; 3 La Poste 80 miles; 4 Uruguay Natural 756. Whitbread 60s: 1 Tokio, 12 19:36:27; 2 Winston, 12 20:27:00; 3 Yamaha, 12 20:57:25; 4 Intrum Justitia; 5 Reebok 141; 6 Galicia '93 Pescanova 183; 7 Brooksfield 277; 8 Hetman Sahaidachny 483; 9 Odessa 693; 10 Heineken 758.

(Photograph omitted)

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