Sailing: Carnival gives Cayard warm welcome

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The Independent Online
THE dream campaign that is Paul Cayard's first Whitbread Round the World Race entered the realms of the fantastic as he brought EF Language into the winner's enclosure here in Brazil at the end of the fifth leg from Auckland yesterday.

Never in 25 years of sailing in major events around the world has the Californian been given the sort of frenzied and exuberant welcome as that cooked up by a town in the grip of carnival. A 50-strong group of colourfully decorated samba dancers were on a dockside created from the deck of a car ferry, swaying and stamping to the insistent beat of a dozen drummers.

Although well past midnight, thousands had left the main streets to cheer, with accompanying fire crackers, a sporting hero far removed from their normal footballing idols. It was a helluva party.

Whether the fans really knew what they were applauding, or even who, the significance was not lost on a crew struggling to take it all in. "It's fantastic," said the watch leader, Magnus Olsson. "It's almost too much."

For crew member Kimo Worthington, the first 17 days had provided "the best sailing of my life". No problems with frostbitten hands this time, just surge after surge of high-speed excitement and the only nerves were for their women counterparts on EF Education when their mast came down.

"You know if you fall off the edge it is going to be pretty bad, but we had hardly any down time and the only serious breakage was a spinnaker pole. We carry a spare," he said.

Even when they were down the order at the beginning of the stage there were no real concerns. "We were where we wanted to be, it all fitted together, and then we started picking people off ahead of us and after a couple of days we were leading," he added.

Cayard, who flies to San Francisco and the likelihood of a major cash announcement for his America's Cup campaign, is now 96 points clear of his nearest rival. That almost equates to a complete leg, so he can afford a major setback and still be in the running.

Still on the water, Dee Smith was nursing a crack in the mast of third- placed Chessie Racing while still hunting down Roy Heiner, just 16 miles ahead of him in Brunel Sunergy.

The trio of Gunnar Krantz's Swedish Match, Grant Dalton's Merit Cup and Paul Standbridge's Toshiba were resigned to racing for fourth place as the two boats ahead of them continued to profit from having sailed east round the Falkland Islands. The gamble of going further west by Knut Frostad seemed to have failed in an Innovation Kvaerner also with a crack in the mast.

Back in the UK, the Silk Cut skipper, Lawrie Smith, was investigating the possibility of the rules allowing him to claim points for the leg, even though the boat was motor-sailing here to have a new mast and hull repairs. In Ushuaia, the EF shore team was preparing to fit the new mast, flown to the all-women team on EF Education.

WHITBREAD ROUND THE WORLD RACE Fifth leg (Auckland to Sao Sebastiao, Brazil): 1 EF Language (Swe) 23 days 1hr 9min 23 sec (135pts, total 507); 2 Brunel Sunergy (Neth) 412.6 miles to finish; 3 Chessie Racing (US) +16.2; 4 Swedish Match (Swe) +107; 5 Merit Cup (Monaco) +118; 6 Toshiba (US) +138; 7 Innovation Kvaerner (Nor) +228; 8 Silk Cut (GB) +973; 9 EF Education (Swe) +1,719.

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