Sailing: Cayard off to a flyer

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The Independent Online
Paul Cayard put EF Language firmly back on the Whitbread map after a difficult second leg with a truly spectacular start to the third leg of the Round The World Race here yesterday.

And just behind, Christine Guillou raised a cheer for women's sailing when she stormed past the overall race leader Innovation Kvaerner on a gust and a wave as the nine-boat fleet set out on the 2,200-mile voyage to Sydney.

Cayard's crew looked every inch the technical, short-course experts they are as they were the first boat to pop their biggest spinnaker. Cayard hit one end of the line with perfect timing and with Lawrie Smith and Silk Cut on his tail left the start at 13 knots under the full power of the 25-knot Fremantle Doctor breeze.

He reached the first mark, five miles north of Fremantle, with a 200- metre lead over Merit Cup. Further back John Kostecki, brought on board Chessie Racing for his inshore skill, was solid in mid-fleet while Kvaerner - the Frenchman Pierre Mas at the wheel, the Olympic gold-medallist Torben Grael on tactics - was by then struggling to stay out of last place.

As the nine boats headed out to Rottnest Island, where they turned south for the south-east corner of Australia which they were due to reach late last night British time, they were beating into the solid 25-knot wind. The power of Swedish Match shouldered the second-leg winner past Merit Cup and into second place, and Kostecki sailed Chessie up into third ahead of Silk Cut.

Grant Dalton, on Merit, will not have been happy with a drop to seventh on the water but knowing his boat has been profiled for very different conditions, he'll be happy to hang on to the leaders in readiness for the lighter airs over the next week, where he will expect to excel.

With a high-pressure system forming off the south-east coast over the next day or so, navigators face a difficult choice. Ahead of them on the direct course is the prospect of light winds at the centre of the high-pressure area.

A route south around the zone would add 300 miles to the distance, but sailing in more wind is much more critical in the Whitbread today than sailing the shortest course. Young navigators such as Kvaerner's Marcel van Triest are psychologically prepared to add many miles to their course to find the few knots more wind that would give huge boat-speed benefits. By tonight the first indications of this tactical thinking will become apparent as the fleet heads out into open sea.