Sailing: Interspray rules the waves

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MORE than 500 miles were yesterday separating the first and last of the 10 yachts in the British Steel Challenge as they passed the half- way mark on the first leg of their round the world voyage to Rio de Janeiro. They are spread across an east to west front in mid-Atlantic.

The nip-and-tuck competition for the lead between Interspray and British Steel II continued with Paul Jeffes on Interspray keeping his nose in front by a few miles.

Along with Heath Insured, this trio have so far taken a more easterly route passing the Cape Verde Islands closer to Africa. Pride of Teesside have been taking a middle course and Nuclear Electric is leading a westerly group which includes Rhone-Poulenc, Hofbrau and Group 4.

The problem for all of them now is coping personally with the heat and tactically with The Doldrums. Picking their way through this area of light and fickle wind could easily see a reversal of fortunes and John Chittenden, in particular, was yesterday expressing his confidence about Nuclear Electric being in a more westerly position.

Crews are being kept alert not just by the competition between each other but by the abundant marine life, including shoals of flying fish with a habit of crash-landing on the decks.

BRITISH STEEL CHALLENGE: Positions (and distance to finish): 1 Interspray, 2,330 miles; 2 British Steel II 2,336; 3 Heath Insured 2,370; 4 Pride of Teesside 2,533; 5 Nuclear Electric 2,643; 6 Rhone-Poulenc 2,655; 7 Coopers & Lybrand 2,663; 8 Hofbrau 2,667; 9 Group 4 2,686; 10 Commercial Union 2,843.