The RYA's national keelboat coach and manager of the British team, Bill Edgerton, said yesterday: 'I have been involved since 1973 and I cannot remember a position seven months before the event not knowing what even one of the three boats would be.
'We have not had a single commitment despite talks going on since March,' he said, adding that although the RORC was concerned that the British position should not be talked down, as there was no British position it was hard to see how it could be talked down.
The captain of the 1993 team should be Mike Peacock, owner of the 50-footer Juno. But health problems have severely curtailed his involvement and his boat, which would need maintenance and new sails, would only be available on a charter basis.
Although the RORC decided last month that participating countries could enter two boats instead of three, with those entering three counting their two best results from each of the six races, the strongest challengers will have three-boat teams. These are expected to include the French defenders, Italy, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
The remaining nine of the 10 identical 67-footers in the British Steel Challenge are approaching the final fortnight of their journey round Cape Horn and through the Pacific southern ocean.
Richard Merriweather still holds a slender lead over Nuclear Electric. With less than 2,000 miles to go, Nuclear Electric's skipper, John Chittenden, yesterday estimated his arrival day in Hobart as 6 January. Last-placed Rhone-Poulenc is due to rendezvous with the dismasted British Steel II to transfer fuel.
In the Vendee Globe non-stop round the world race, Alain Gautier in Bagages Superior has 17,600 miles to the finish at Les Sables d'Olonne in France. Bertrand de Broc in Groupe LG is second, 260-miles behind. The Welshman Alan Thomas in Cardiff Discovery is fourth, 300 miles behind third-placed Nandor Fa in K&H Bank Matav.
BRITISH STEEL CHALLENGE ROUND THE WORLD RACE (Second leg, Rio de Janeiro to Hobart) Leading positions (with miles to finish): 1 Commercial Union 1,985; 2 Nuclear Electric 1,990; 3 Hofbrau 2,163; 4 Coopers and Lybrand 2,278; 5 Pride of Teesside 2,330; 6 Heath Insured 2,357; 7 Group 4 2,371; 8 Interspray 2,629; 9 Rhone-Poulenc 2,880. Dismasted: British Steel II.
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