Sailing: Conner maintains his pressure zone: Winston exploits southern route

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The Independent Online
DENNIS CONNER continued to go from strength to strength as he pushed his lead to over 110 miles in the third leg, from Fremantle to Auckland, of the Whitbread Round the World Race last night.

'Spirits are high on Winston,' he said. 'The last 24 hours have been exciting for us as we sailed the more southerly route, and have constantly had higher winds than the rest of the fleet.

'During the night we had several sail changes as the wind gusted to 33 knots,' he explained. 'It is wet aboard and it starts to be cold. We expect the present conditions to continue for a couple more days, and will do our best to maintain our lead.'

It is those two days which could prove crucial, as race headquarters predicts a new high-pressue zone will gradually slow the whole fleet. If Winston can wriggle away from that, she will be in the clear.

In second place is still Grant Dalton in the maxi, New Zealand Endeavour, with Chris Dickson in the second W60, Tokio, just eight miles astern. Winston's lead over Lawrie Smith, the winner of the second leg, in Intrum Justitia but the fifth-placed W60 on this leg, was last night 186 miles and, over Britain's Dolphin and Youth, 260 miles.

While Dickson is alleging illegal fittings on the masts of Winston and Intrum Justitia, and Smith is claiming photographic evidence of illegal sail-setting on Tokio, Conner is building evidence to show that his navigational tactics work. This is relevant to the reopening in Auckland of the hearing into compensation for Winston for going to the aid of Brooksfield in the last leg.

After the resignation, due to the ill health of a member of his family, of the hearing's chairman, Marcel Leeman of Belgium, the jury in Auckland will now be chaired by Stavely Roberts, of Scotland, with two New Zealanders, Joe Butterfield and Gil Hedges, joining Australia's Rex Scott-Murphy.