Sailing: Blake under wraps in danger zone

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PETER BLAKE, having covered 5,265 miles in 16 days at sea, believes his 85ft catamaran can go round the world in 80 days. 'The target is definitely on. The Jules Verne Trophy is a very achievable goal,' he said yesterday from on board Enza, which he co-skippers with Robin Knox-Johnston.

Enza, which is averaging 14 knots, is now in the south Atlantic and is heading for the Southern Ocean. Blake reported that the sea temperature is dropping 'like a stone' and the seven-man crew are taking extra precautions. 'Everyone is now carrying their flare packs, strobe lights and VHF locator bleepers, particularly at night,' Blake said. 'They are also starting to wear their wet-weather gear and woollen underwear.'

Going the other way and trying to climb northwards out of the band of light airs which has slowed their progress are the leaders in the Vendee Globe Trophy singlehanded round-the-world race.

Alain Gautier, in Bagages Superior, has little more than 5,000 miles to go to the finish in Les Sables d'Olonne as he sails parallel to the coast of Argentina. Philippe Poupon, in Fleury Michon, is still in pursuit and only 340 miles behind. Jean-Luc van den Heede, in

G. Sofap Helvim, has closed the gap in third to a further 160 miles.

The catch-up has been remarkable, considering that Poupon and Van den Heede had to return to the start and set off five and four days later than Gautier. With fickle winds, plus the Equator and doldrums to cross, the chances of a last-lap upset are considerable.

Adrian Donovan, in Heath Insured, has stolen into the lead of the British Steel Challenge for the first time as light winds turned early gains by Richard Merriweather's Commercial Union and John Chittenden's Nuclear Electric into a lottery.

The 10 identical 67-footers are spread across a front of about 120 miles on their way round the Antarctic to Cape Town. Those to the south like Nuclear, Pride of Teesside, British Steel II and Interspray, are hoping to benefit from stronger winds and a more advantageous direction.

Chittenden, winner of the second leg from Rio de Janeiro to Hobart, reports that a ridge of high pressure has moved north, shutting off that route, and then south, meaning continuing light airs. The four new crew members and some bouts of seasickness have settled down on Nuclear Electric and he is unperturbed by his slide into third place.

Commercial Union reported that after being becalmed, the wind picked up and they were sailing into a 20-knot westerly.

BRITISH STEEL CHALLENGE Third Leg (Hobart to Cape Town): Positions (with miles to the finish as estimated by BT): 1 Heath Insured 5,029; 2 Commercial Union 5,032; 3 Nuclear Electric 5,033; 4 Hofbrau Group 4 5,045; 6 Rhone-Poulenc 5,046; 7 Coopers & Lybrand 5,054; 8 Pride of Teesside 5,066; 9 British Steel II 5,067; 10 Interspray 5,098.

(Map omitted)