Sailing: Light airs make marvellous music for Cayard

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IT MAY be carnival time in Brazil, but things out on the water are pretty chaotic as the final hours of the fifth leg of the Whitbread Race unfold.

Although the gap between the leader Paul Cayard and those chasing him to the stopover here gets closer, the fates are conspiring to make the Californian's overall lead even greater ahead of the last four legs.

Cayard's EF Language has slowed and is not expected to finish until tomorrow afternoon, which could be no bad things given how frenetic life on sure will be today.

Behind him Roy Heiner, in Brunel Sunergy, and Dee Smith, in George Collins' Chessie Racing, continue to profit from having seen all those ahead of them caught in a light air, high pressure zone and sailed round it by going east of the Falklands.

Those two, well down the overall standings, can put no pressure on Cayard, who will emerge with an even bigger points cushion over the likes of Gunnar Krantz, in Swedish Match, and Grant Dalton, in Merit Cup, who are trying to hang on to second and third places.

Half a dozen crew from the British yacht Silk Cut left the boat to delivery crew and flew here yesterday to prepare for hull repairs and the fitting of a new mast. The Byzantine Brazilian Customs system is not helping. Skipper Lawrie Smith returned to Britain.

The women of EF Education took great trouble to avoid that Brazilian bugbear by flying their replacement mast to Ushuaia, at the top of the Beagle Channel in Argentina. That way, with a shore crew to help, they may more easily make the start of the sixth leg to Fort Lauderdale on 14 March.

WHITBREAD ROUND THE WORLD RACE (6,670 miles, Auckland, NZ to Sao Sebastiao, Br): 1 EF Language (Swe) 392.2 miles to finish; 2 BrunelSunergy (Neth) +438.8 miles; 3 Chessie Racing (US) +475.8; 4 Swedish Match (Swe) +516.4; 5 Merit Cup (US) +526.4; 6 Toshiba +549.2; 7 Innovation Kvaerner (Nor) +574.2; 8 Silk Cut (GB) +1,354; 9 EF Education (Swe) +2,026.