Sailing: Helicopter help for battered Innovation

whitbread round the world race
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The Independent Online
The crew of Innovation Kvaerner needed the help of a helicopter to prevent their Whitbread Round the World Race ending in disaster after the lower part of the yacht's mast was damaged during a night of strong winds and large waves on the 2,250-mile third leg from Fremantle to Sydney.

Dents and small buckles on the mast forced skipper Knut Frostad to steer the overall race leader for the coast. She heaved to for 25 minutes off Cape Leeuwin while a repair kit was dropped by helicopter. Under race rules, a yacht must anchor no more than a nautical mile from shore to receive assistance.

The crew had made substantial repairs to the rig themselves before help arrived and they are convinced that the damage will not prevent them from pushing hard to retain their lead.

Innovation rejoined the race at the rear of the nine-strong fleet, but she was only nine miles behind the leg-leader, EF Language, whose crew described the overnight conditions as "rough". The Swedish boat, skippered by Paul Cayard, leads Swedish Match (Gunnar Krantz) by less than a mile.

The all-female crew on EF Education also suffered a setback when one of the halyard winches parted company with the boat. The metal base casing sheared and the entire winch flew over the side, hitting Anna Drougge's hand on the way and leaving her with a nasty bruise.

The fleet is hugging the coastline as it crosses the Great Australian Bight towards Sydney to keep away from the high pressure that lies to the south. The British entry Silk Cut, skippered by Lawrie Smith, slipped slightly from fourth place to fifth, but the fleet is squeezed together with little between them.

The surprise of the first 24 hours of the leg was the second place for Chessie Racing, being skippered for the first time by her American owner, George Collins. After disappointing results in the first and second legs, Collins, who did not sail either of those legs, has taken over as skipper on board and brought with him two experts - John Kostecki and Mike Toppa. It paid dividends at the start, but at the end of the second day Chessie had slipped back to eighth.

WHITBREAD ROUND THE WORLD RACE (third leg, 2,250 miles, Fremantle to Sydney): 1 EF Language (Swe) P Cayard 1,866 miles to finish; 2 Swedish Match (Swe) G Krantz 0.8 miles behind leader; 3 Merit Cup (Mon) G Dalton 1.9; 4 Toshiba (US) P Standbridge 2.4; 5 Silk Cut (GB) L Smith 4.0; 6 Brunel Sunergy (Neth) R Heiner 6.5; 7 EF Education (Swe) C Guillou 7.2; 8 Chessie Racing (US) G Collins 8.6; 9 Innovation Kvaerner (Nor) K Frostad 9.2.