Sailing: Dalton goes second and ponders decision

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The Independent Online
Grant Dalton's Merit Cup yesterday pushed back up to second place as light winds and stickier conditions were affecting the Whitbread fleet as it continued south, 250 miles west of Santa Cruz in the Canaries.

Knut Frostad's Kvaerner still leads as they head for the next milestone, the Cape Verde Islands and the lottery of the Doldrums looms ever nearer. Dalton was still 16 miles behind Frostad and had a slender, possibly only temporary, lead of less than four miles over Paul Cayard's EF Language.

"We have to take an important tactical decision now," Dalton said, "whether to switch direction and head south or stay on what looks the more unfavoured direction and end up in a week's time with a better angle to the Doldrums. The move is one of the most important of the first leg and is giving the navigators furrowed brows."

The British entry, Silk Cut, has been making up ground, Lawrie Smith closing the gap on Frostad to 31 miles, a small margin when a good band of breeze can quickly accelerate a boat from an average of six knots to 12.

The race favourite, Chris Dickson's Toshiba, which had been taking the most easterly route, first pulled back a few miles to be 96 behind, only then to slip again to 106.

The comparatively slow run for the first 1,000 miles means that many are already considering rationing their food. However, water, which is made on a daily basis by a desalination unit on board, is not a problem.

WHITBREAD ROUND THE WORLD RACE (First leg, 7,350 miles, Southampton to Cape Town): Latest positions: 1 Innovation Kvaerner (Nor) K Frostad 5,589.5 miles to finish; 2 Merit Cup (Monaco) G Dalton +16.1; 3 EF Language (Swe) P Cayard +19.7; 4 Silk Cut (GB) L Smith +31.5; 5 Chessie Racing (US) J Allsopp +41.0; 6 Toshiba (US) C Dickson +106.2; 7 Swedish Match (Swe) G Krantz +187.8; 8 America's Challenge (US) R Field +188.6; 9 Brunel Sunergy (Neth) H Bouscholte +230.8; 10 EF Education (Swe) C Guillou +266.7.