Sailing: French pursue Cayard: Dewailly confident of securing skipper

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PAUL CAYARD, who has been unable to find backing for another Italian challenge for next year's America's Cup, is being pursued by two rival French syndicates, writes Stuart Alexander. This week he flies to France for further talks with Jacques Dewailly's Antibes syndicate, and he has also been approached by Marc Pajot.

'Marc rang me up and said he would like to see me while I was in France,' Cayard said at his San Diego home, 'but I don't know what to make of it.'

Cayard, who is half-French and has a French passport, had wanted to set up a co-operative venture with Dewailly using the Italian equipment from the 1992 campaign. He has also held talks with Team Dennis Conner and the rival defence syndicate, Pact '95.

Cayard skippered the Il Moro di Venezia challenge which won the Louis Vuitton Cup in 1992 then lost 4-1 to the American defender, Bill Koch. But any hope of a return in 1995 evaporated with the suicide of his patron, Raul Gardini, amid the spate of Italian corruption scandals.

'I'm not rudely rejecting anything at the moment and I will participate in the next America's Cup, for sure,' Cayard said. 'But, while I am looking at the next 18 months I am more concerned with the next 25 years.'

Although Conner has said that whoever was the better helmsman would sail his boat, Cayard is not fully convinced. 'I think DC would have a hard time making the transition from being an on-board skipper to a desk skipper,' he said. 'And then there is a financial angle. Maybe I'm worth more to Jacques Dewailly and could contribute more to that French effort.'

Dewailly's project manager, Eric Ogden, said yesterday the syndicate would sign a deal with Cayard 'before the end of the month'.

Robin Knox-Johnston and Peter Blake were 'going like a train' in the Southern Ocean yesterday as they kept their 92ft catamaran ENZA ahead of schedule in an attempt to beat Bruno Peyron's round-the-world record of 78 days.