Sailing: Frustrating conditions on run to Auckland: Kiwis in a fight to the finish

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The Independent Online
AFTER headwinds, sometimes fading in strength, made for a frustrating beat up to the turning point of Cape Reinga, the Whitbread fleet was in close formation last night for the last 200 miles and the tightest of finishes for the third leg of the Round the World Race from Australia to New Zealand.

The whole of Auckland was getting ready to go Whitbread crazy to cheer their heroes home. Leading by 10 slender miles was Chris Dickson in the W60 Tokio, followed by Grant Dalton's maxi, New Zealand Endeavour. Every yard of the way was bitterly fought.

The crowd have yet to make up their minds whether to boo Dennis Conner, one of three yachts sharing third with Winston, or cheer his Kiwi co-skipper Brad Butterworth and five other Kiwi crew. They could do both and a fourth NZ skipper, Ross Field in Yamaha, and Javier de la Gandara in Galicia were in a position to attack Winston.

New position reports were being satellite-calculated by BT and broadcast every hour, something BT plans to do for the last 48 hours of every leg instead of just one position report every six hours.

This is putting even more pressure on skippers and crews. 'We are pretty exhausted now after two days of really hard work with the combination of lack of sleep and intense concentration,' Lawrie Smith said.

His Intrum Justitia has slipped back to fifth W60 and, with a brisk, spinnaker-filling north-easterly forecast for the last 200 miles, Smith may find the Saturday night crowds already several laps into Sunday morning victory celebration before he ties up in Viaduct Basin.

WHITBREAD ROUND THE WORLD RACE Third leg (Fremantle, Aus, to Auckland, NZ) Positions with nautical miles to finish; 1 Tokio 164; 2 *New Zealand Endeavour 174; 3= Winston, Galicia '93 Pescanova, Yamaha 191; 6 *La Poste 202; 7 Intrum Justitia, 204; 8 *Merit Cup 233; 9 Dolphin & Youth 236; 10 Brooksfield 274; 11 Heineken 283; 12 Hetman Sahaidachny 437; 13 *Uruguay Natural 766; 14 Odessa 771.

*Maxis BT Results Service