'We have an abnormal amount of water in the boat and are pumping much more than normal. If we have a leak, we cannot find it,' the skipper, Peter Phillips, reported as winds of more than 50 knots buffeted the fleet on the third leg of their voyage round the world.
The leaking gas bottles have led to severe rationing. 'No extra hot drinks, only one per watch,' Phillips said. 'No cooking which involves multiple burners, so stew- type meals only. All watches must eat at the same time, so sleep patterns are severely disrupted. No more baking of bread. No more interesting meals.'
Leading by 180 miles is Group 4, skippered by Mike Golding, as she heads for Cape Town, but only 70 miles separate second-placed John Chittenden in Nuclear Electric from seventh-placed Vivien Cherry in Coopers & Lybrand.
Alain Gautier, who leads in Bagages Superior in the Vendee Globe single-handed non-stop round the world race, with less than 1,500 miles to go has given up hope of breaking the 109-day record set by Titouan Lamazou and hopes to finish at Les Sables d'Olonne on Saturday or Sunday.
Over 500 miles behind him is Philippe Poupon in Fleury Michon who, although he has five days in hand having restarted after repairs, is also unlikely to break the record.
The French contender for the Jules Verne Trophy, Commodore Explorer, skippered by Bruno Peyron, continues ahead of schedule for the 80-day target. However, the boat, now approaching Tasmania, has sustained damage and Peyron may call into New Zealand.
Enza, the damaged 85ft catamaran skippered by Peter Blake and Robin Knox-Johnston, is expected in Cape Town tomorrow.
The Royal Ocean Racing Club said yesterday that it still expected Graham Walker, with his newly purchased 50-footer, and Peter Morton, who has announced plans to charter the 40ft one-tonner Orient Express, to sail for Britain in this year's Admiral's Cup.
BRITISH STEEL CHALLENGE Leg 3 (Hobart to Cape Town) Positions and miles to finish: 1 Group 4, 1,615; 2 Nuclear Electric, 1,795; 3 Hofbrau, 1,814; 4 Rhone-Poulenc, 1,816; 5 British Steel II, 1,821; 6 Commercial Union, 1,851; 7 Coopers & Lybrand, 1,865; 8 Heath Insured, 1,925; 9 InterSpray, 1,962; 10 Pride of Teesside, 2,099. Information supplied by BT.