Sailing: Dickson in first class, Conner reduced to economy rate: New Zealanders claim honours as remainder of the field nears finish of first leg of the Whitbread Round The World Race

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The Independent Online
CHRIS DICKSON claimed the honours in the Whitbread 60 class by bringing Tokio across the line ahead of his rivals at the end of the first leg of the Whitbread Round The World Race here yesterday.

'The Whitbread Race is a lot more fun than the America's Cup,' said Dickson, who is making his debut in the race. 'That's probably because he has never won the America's Cup,' countered his Whitbread 60 rival, Dennis Conner, who limped in with the mainsail folded over a broken boom on Winston 13 hours 21 minutes later.

Dickson had taken three hours, nine minutes and 19 seconds longer than the overall winner, Grant Dalton in the maxi, New Zealand Endeavour, to complete the 6,000 miles from Southampton in a boat 20 feet shorter.

Dickson could afford to be generous about 24 days of pressure racing that has kept his multi-national crew on their toes 24 hours a day. 'We have raced the same way as match-racing over day courses except that we do six match races a day,' he said. 'The intensity is high to keep things going, it's really tough. I loved it. I enjoyed it three or more times than I thought I would.'

Pierre Fehlmann in the maxi, Merit Cup, the third arrival, talked of mishaps and breakages, but was confident he could make up the deficit on Dalton. 'In the Whitbread, eight hours is nothing,' he said.

Ross Field, with the latest generation 60, Yamaha, was equally sure he could make up the 14-hour lead Dickson has over him, entering the second leg across the Southern Ocean to Fremantle. 'On a level playing field we think we have an edge, but this playing field is not level,' he said, 'and the boats are so fast that being in better wind can quickly open up huge distances.'

WHITBREAD ROUND THE WORLD RACE First leg (Southampton to Punta del Este, Urug) Finishing order: 1 New Zealand Endeavour (maxi) 24 days 7hr 19min 2sec; 2 Tokio (Japan, Whitbread 60) 24 10:28:21; 3 Merit Cup (Swit, maxi) 24 15:41:39; 4 Galicia '93 Pescanova (Sp, W60) 24 20:30:42; 5 Yamaha (Japan, W60) 24 21:30:22; 6 Winston (US, W60) 24 23:49:45; 7 Intrum Justitia (Europe, W60) 25 02:40:49. Miles to finish: 8 La Poste (Fr, maxi) 102; 9 Dolphin & Youth (GB, W60) 206; 10 Brooksfield (It, W60) 379; 11 US Women's Challenge (W60) 463; 12 Uruquay Natural (maxi) 649; 13 Hetman Sahaidachny (Ukr, W60) 664; 14 Odessa (Ukr, W60) 3,056.

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