Sailing: Chittenden relives roller-coaster ride: Southern Ocean tested British Steel boats to the limit

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The Independent Online
THE Southern Ocean finally delivered its promise to examine the crews of the 10 identical 67-foot yachts sailing the wrong way round the world in the British Steel Challenge. They are all glad to be in Cape Town.

The heavy steel boats have shrugged aside conditions that might have tested more conventional ocean racers to destruction.

The second leg from Rio de Janeiro to Hobart had built up so many expectations that there was almost a sense of being cheated when Cape Horn proved totally benign. The 6,500-mile third leg was much more of a slog.

'I wouldn't have believed it posible to drive a boat so hard to windward in 60 knots,' John Chittenden, the skipper of the overall leader, Nuclear Electric, said yesterday. 'It was like being stuck on a roller-coaster. You could not heave to and wait for the worst of the storm to go away, because you would be overtaken.'

His crew, after the initial difficulties of settling in five new members out of 13, coped well, though some admitted to being worried as the boat crashed off wave after wave, to the point where many plates on the starboard side were distorted by indentation.

The last leg home to Southampton starts on 17 April.

BRITISH STEEL CHALLENGE Third Leg (Hobart to Cape Town): 1 Group 4, 33 days, 17hr, 06min, 24sec; 2 Hofbrau, 34:10:54:58; 3 Nuclear Electric, 34:14:23:02; 4 Coopers and Lybrand, 35:17:06:58; 5 Rhone-Poulenc, 35:21:34:48; 6 Heath Insured, 36:00:46:40; 7 British Steel II, 36:10:48:09; 8 Commercial Union, 36:16:44:40; 9 Interspray 36:17:09:12; 10 Pride of Teesside, 36:17:53:54. Overall: 1 Nuclear Electric, 115 days, 10hr, 29 min, 31sec; 2 Group 4, 115:18:25:38; 3 Hofbrau, 116:05:28:48; 4 Heath Insured, 117:10:40:06; 5 Coopers and Lybrand, 118:07:51:12; 6 Interspray, 118:10:21:07; 7 Pride of Teesside, 119:03:53:18; 8 Rhone-Poulenc, 123:02:25:31; 9 Commercial Union, 123:20:58:46; 10 British Steel II, 127:03:41:35.