Sailing: Dalton's slim advantage

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The Independent Online
Just 500 yards separated the race leader Grant Dalton in Merit Cup from second-placed Paul Cayard's EF Language as the 10 boats in the Whitbread Race headed south and west across the Bay of Biscay yesterday for the first stop-over in Cape Town.

The fleet is beginning to split as the top four boats, which also include Knut Frostad's Kvaerner and the British entry, Lawrie Smith's Silk Cut, pull away from a mid-group pair of American yachts, George Collins' Chessie Racing and the race favourite, Chris Dickson in Toshiba.

A gap of nearly 30 miles separates them from the next four with the all- woman crew of EF Education, skippered by Christine Guillou, lying 80 miles behind Dalton after just 48 hours.

The main factor has been strange weather which has seen some prosper as others suffered, but seventh-placed Ross Field, who won the 1993-94 race in Yamaha, admitted that they were still learning how to get the best out of the Alan Andrews-designed America's Challenge.

Bunches of seaweed around keels and rudders have also been a problem, requiring Frostad's crewman Alby Pratt to go for a swim as the boat was stopped to clear it.