Sailing: Golding ready for the big chill

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NERVES WERE jangling in Cape Town yesterday as the 14 solo yachtsmen and one woman prepared for today's start of the second leg of the Around Alone Race.

The nearly 7,000-mile course takes them from Cape Town to Auckland. More importantly, it takes them through the crunch leg of a southern ocean beltway powered by gale force winds, skirting the freezing Antarctic, and the scene of most of the major disasters in sailing.

Competition is tight. Just two and a half hours separated Britain's Mike Golding in Group 4 and Frenchwoman Isabelle Autissier at the end of the first leg. Also breathing down his neck also will be Marc Thiercelin, who led for much of the first leg from Charleston, North Carolina.

Golding then has a cushion of four days to the next Briton, Josh Hall in Gartmore, and an extra day over the Italian threat of Giovanni Soldini in Fila.

Things are also wide open in the Class II 50-footers, where Jean-Pierre Mouligne starts this leg with a near 24-hour advantage over Britain's Mike Garside in Magellan Alpha, who, in turn, is 90 minutes ahead of American Brad van Liew.

Soldini, whose tactical routing gamble failed him miserably on the first leg, has already set a 389-mile run in 24 hours. All the new Class I 60- footers hope to break the 400-mile barrier in the next two to three weeks.

Hall is most confident of making it to the other end without major breakage. Apart from adding a third autopilot and swapping to heavier sails, the only other modification Hall has made for this leg is to install a heater. "You are more efficient if you have a semblance of comfort, if you know you can go to a warm cabin."

If he cannot win himself, then he hopes Golding can do so instead.