Sailing: Cayard leads the break as Whitbread boats close in on Cape Town

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The Independent Online
The three leading boats in the Whitbread Round the World Race may now have made the decisive break of the opening leg, but, as Stuart Alexander explains, the tactical battle is not over.

Back up to speed on the 7,350 mile route from Southampton to Cape Town, the American Paul Cayard, skipper of the Swedish yacht, EF Language, yesterday had a 35-mile lead over the second-placed Grant Dalton on Merit Cup.

Dalton was holding a middle station between the more southerly Cayard and the skipper who led for so much of the leg, Norway's Knut Frostad on Innovation Kvaerner.

These three should be enjoying fast, reaching conditions for 24 hours, testing Dalton's theory that the trio are the fastest in the 10-boat fleet. "We have been in the north and the action has been in the south," Dalton said. "There you have it, the story of this first leg, a leader's race. We are now getting on with catching up."

An expected cold weather system bringing 20 to 25-knot winds could help the chasing group close the gap after rounding the Ilha da Trindade. Britain's Lawrie Smith on Silk Cut would be pleased to be one of them. After closing to less than 100 miles, Smith has seen the gap between him and the leading boats expand to more than 180, although he has consolidated fourth position with a 55-mile cushion over Mark Fischer on Chessie Racing.

However, despite the frustrations, the leaders are expected to be no more than 24 hours behind their expected arrival in Cape Town on 22 October.

WHITBREAD ROUND THE WORLD RACE (first leg, 7,350 miles, Southampton to Cape Town) Latest positions: 1 EF Language (Swe) P Cayard 2,266 miles to finish; 2 Merit Cup (Monaco) G Dalton +34.8 miles; 3 Innovation Kvaerner (Nor) K Frostad +35.2; 4 Silk Cut (GB) L Smith +183; 5 Chessie Racing (US) M Fischer +238; 6 Toshiba (US) C Dickson +325.5; 7 America's Challenge (US) R Field +326.7; 8 Swedish Match (Swe) G Krantz +336; 9 EF Education (Swe) C Guillou +505; 10 Brunel Sunergy (Neth) H Bouscholte +581.

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