Sailing: Bowman safe after midnight rescue

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The Independent Online
The call everyone dreads was heard on Saturday night on the Whitbread Race's overall leader, Innovation Kvaerner, when bowman Alby Pratt was swept overboard. Up at the point for a sail change, he had not attached his safety line and was picked up by a wave breaking over the boat.

He was kept in view by his automatically activated strobe light. The sails were quickly dropped and the engine used to go back to him for the pick-up, which took seven minutes. Pratt, pride apart, was uninjured.

Nor did it cost the skipper, Knut Frostad, too much as the struggle between the nine yachts on the third leg from Fremantle intensified. It was the Scandinavian trio of leg two winner Swedish Match, leg one winner Paul Cayard's EF Language, and overall leader Kvaerner who occupied the top three slots for much of the day, but by last night Britain's Lawrie Smith in Silk Cut had just squeezed past Frostad.

Just 25 miles covered the whole fleet and 10 miles separated third from eighth, so positions in the middle of the pack were changing quicker than a Scottish reel. Any one of those eight could hope to rack up extra points by the time they reached the finish at the Sydney Opera House.

In addition to midnight rescues, Frostad was also nursing a mast which he described yesterday as "very shaky". It was because of having to ease off in a lumpy sea that Pratt was making the sail change, but Frostad is prepared to sacrifice a place or two rather than see the mast collapse.

Also having to take care is the leg leader, Gunnar Krantz in Swedish Match, who was suffering similar compression problems in the lower section of the aluminium alloyed tube.

The all-woman crew of EF Education noticed just in time that the rigging which holds the mast up had become detached as they were preparing to gybe the boat on to a new heading. In trying to reattach everything, Leah Newbold was injured as the yacht lurched and she lost her hold.

The predicted finish by all yachts is midday local time in Sydney tomorrow.

WHITBREAD ROUND THE WORLD RACE (third leg, 2,250 miles, Fremantle to Sydney): 1 Swedish Match (Swe) G Krantz 307.5 miles to finish; 2 EF Language (Swe) P Cayard 3.9 miles to leader; 3 Innovation Kvaerner (Nor) K Frostad 12.5; 4 Silk Cut (GB) L Smith 13.1; 5 Chessie Racing (US) M Fischer 17.8; 6 Merit Cup (Monaco) G Dalton 17.9; 7 Toshiba (US) P Standbridge 18.3; 8 BrunelSunergy (Neth) H Bouscholte 20.3; 9 EF Education (Swe) C Guillou 28.2.