Sailing: Commercial success

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AFTER a month of leading the 10 identical 67-footers in the British Steel Challenge, John Chittenden's Nuclear Electric has been overtaken, writes Stuart Alexander.

Ahead of him yesterday were Richard Merriweather, the new skipper of Commercial Union which has chipped away at Nuclear Electric since Cape Horn, and Richard Tudor, the winner of the first leg to Rio in British Steel II.

The tactical battle over the remaining 3,000 miles to Hobart now sees Chittenden taking a more westerly course in the southern Pacific while both Merriweather and Tudor have turned more south-westerly, gambling on the shorter distance to Hobart outweighing the threat of worse weather closer to the Antarctic.

Behind these three, the fleet is strung out over nearly 700 miles and enjoying mixed fortunes. From British Steel II, Tudor said: 'Having gone back south, we are really feeling the Roaring Forties, experiencing 50-knot winds on the nose. There are huge seas and we are taking a pounding, but holding things together.

'Rounding the Horn, we were lulled into a false sense of security. Now we are on edge while in iceberg territory and applying maximum vigilance with a minimum of three crew on watch on the freezing deck and two watching the radar below.'

BRITISH STEEL CHALLENGE (Second leg, Rio to Hobart) Positions with miles to the finish: 1 Commercial Union 3,109; 2 British Steel II, 3,138; 3 Nuclear Electric 3,140; 4 Hofbrau 3,175; 5 Coopers & Lybrand 3,252; 6 Heath Insured 3,262, 7 Group 4 3,307; 8 Pride of Teesside 3,490; 9 InterSpray 3,572; 10 Rhone-Poulenc 3,789.( Information supplied by BT).