Sailing: England close the gap

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The Independent Online
As the Welsh, winners in 1995, struggle at the back of the fleet this year in the Round Britain Challenge, England are breathing down the necks of the leaders, France, at the end of the third leg in Newcastle-upon- Tyne, writes Stuart Alexander. The 640-mile hike from Oban had to be cut short by Alan Green, the race officer, as light winds dogged the fleet of 10 boats, two each from England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and France.

"It's almost impossible to believe that, while there are hurricanes in America and strong winds in the south-east of England, it was mirror calm between Lewis and the Orkneys," the adviser, Harold Cudmore, said on Tyneside yesterday.

Using satellite position fixes, the leg was awarded to Mark Turner in Pride of Isle of Wight, with Scotland's Paul Jeffes second in Lord Inverforth and Jean-Philippe Saliou third for France in Gavroche. But even the satellite could not separate fourth and fifth, so England's Craig Nutter and Ireland's Tom McWilliam shared the points.

There was no shortage of wind in Brixham yesterday, where Mike Lennon extended his lead in the defence of his MDL Melges 24 National Championship. In nine starts he has racked up four wins, one second, three thirds and a fifth in the 23 boat fleet as John Merricks, the Olympic silver medallist in the 470, continues his impressive debut in second.