Sailing: Fehlmann rues easterly gambit: Merit Cup skipper's tactical error costs lead in Whitbread final leg

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THE EASTERLY gamble taken for the first week by the maxi, Merit Cup, and the W60s Brooksfield and Galicia for the first week of the final leg of the Whitbread Round The World Race finally crumbled yesterday as Grant Dalton's New Zealand Endeavour roared into the maxi and fleet lead and Chris Dickson's Tokio settled into first place among the W60s.

Also looking rocky was the gamble taken by Lawrie Smith in the W60, Intrum Justitia. He was turning more easterly than Tokio and the man who is second W60 on the water, Ross Field in Yamaha, and sailing slower.

Smith is now the fourth W60, 31 miles further from the Southampton finish than Tokio and 25 miles behind Field, while Dalton has moved from 150 miles behind Pierre Fehlmann's Merit Cup to 38 miles ahead and is 35 miles ahead of Dickson.

Fehlmann admitted his tactical error: 'We were trapped two days ago when we began to lose speed, did not switch across as it would have cost us 50 miles, and this was a mistake. We are still optimistic about the southern option and, in any case, we have no choice.'

Around 100 yachts took part in the Royal Southern May Bank Holiday race to Deauville, the Royal Ocean Racing Club's North Sea Race. The Dutchman Frans van Leeuwen's Blue Hat was first home to Scheveningen but John Oswarld's Mumm 36 Destiny Angel was well ahead on handicap.

In the Solent, three Mumm 36s were part of a nine-boat fleet contesting the first English trials for this year's Rolex Commodores' Cup, with Jorg Riechers' The Wall, sailed by David Bedford, prominent.

WHITBREAD ROUND THE WORLD RACE Sixth leg (Fort Lauderdale to Southampton) Positions, with miles to the finish: Maxi class: 1 New Zealand Endeavour, 1,546; 2 Merit Cup, 1,584; 3 La Poste, 1,641; 4 Uruguay Natural, 1,944. Whitbread 60s: 1 Tokio, 1,581; 2 Yamaha, 1,587; 3 Winston, 1,600; 4 Intrum Justitia, 1,612; 5 Reebok, 1,632; 6 Brooksfield, 1,646; 7 Galicia '93 Pescanova, 1,654; 8 Heineken, 1,735; 9 Hetman Sahaidachny, 1,790; 10 Odessa, 1,936.