Sailing: Cayard `pushed crew too hard'

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The Independent Online
Silk Cut and EF Language were the latest Whitbread Round the World yachts to reach Australia yesterday, bringing with them frightening tales of racing in the Southern Ocean. Stuart Alexander reports from Fremantle.

Lawrie Smith's British boat, Silk Cut, crossed the line in fourth place on a gloriously sunny morning here yesterday. It had taken 16 days and fifteen hours to cover the 4,600 miles from Cape Town. Five hours later a chastened Paul Cayard, skippering Sweden's EF Language on his first Whitbread campaign, sailed in take second place overall.

There had been some hairy moments for both skippers, not least for Smith, now third overall, who combined a world record run of 449.26 miles in 24 hours with an attempt by a malevolent wave not only to rip out the port side guard rails and stanchions, but also to consign to the deep the stack of sails tied to them.

The recovery, with the boat still steaming along at over 20 knots had required a superhuman effort. "It's amazing how 12 frightened men can lift a lot of weight," a crewman, Craig Nutter, said.

The same happened to Cayard - the cool man from California - with the additional fright of having the bowman Curtis Blewitt 60 feet up the violently shaking mast. A sore and shaken Blewitt needed seven hours to recover from his ordeal.

With another crewman, Josh Belsky, also injured, both spinnaker poles broken, and the crew on their knees with fatigue, Cayard took the decision to slow down, allow people to have a sleep, and then start again.

"I pushed the guys too hard and I accept full responsibility. Tired people make errors," Cayard said. "We broke too much stuff. Racing in the Southern Ocean is not the time to sail the boat as if we were in Christchurch Bay."

At the same time he was running out of helmsmen. Kimo Worthington was in danger of frostbite in his fingers and then found it difficult to steer wearing heavy gloves and being unable to grip the wheel. "It got to the point where people had stopped operating," another crewman, Mark Christensen, said.

Smith's experience of the Southern Ocean paid off. Breakages were minimal, downtime was minimal and he punished every one of Cayard's mistakes with bigger mileages.

Knut Frostad's Innovation Kvaerner holds the overall lead with 207 points from Cayard (197) and Smith (168). With 10 points a place on offer for every place gained on the next leg to Sydney, the competition will be very tight.

WHITBREAD ROUND THE WORLD RACE (second leg, 4,600 miles, Cape Town to Fremantle): Finished: 1 Swedish Match (Swe) G Krantz 15 days 03hr 45min 03sec; 2 Innovation Kvaerner (Nor) K Frostad 15:22:02:35; 3 Toshiba (US) P Standbridge 16:05:27:12; 4 Silk Cut (GB) L Smith 16:15:05:09; 5 EF Language (Swe) P Cayard 16:20:07:25. Still to finish: 6 Chessie Racing (US) M Fischer 118 miles to go; 7 Merit Cup (Monaco) G Dalton 407; 8 EF Education (Swe) C Guillou 527; 9 Brunel Sunergy (Neth) H Bouscholte 644. Provisional overall standings: 1 Innovation Kvaerner 207; 2 EF Language 197; 3 Silk Cut 168; 4 Swedish Match 161; 5 Toshiba 157.