There were smiles as the first three yachts across the early-morning line were Galicia, followed by America's Winston and the pan-European Intrum Justitia. They had beaten the latest in the line of ketch-rigged maxi yachts, which are 20 feet longer.
'Here comes another dinosaur,' a loud, indiscreet voice said as a pair of masts and clouds of sail appeared around the headland. First of them across the line was Grant Dalton in New Zealand Endeavour, followed by Daniel Malle in La Poste and Pierre Fehlmann in Merit Cup.
Exhilarated after the ride on Galicia, the crewman Geoff Stagg said they had been averaging 16 knots from the Fastnet Rock. 'These guys were fired up to win this race for their crewman Francisco Pino, who was injured so badly last week (he lost a hand).' But he added: 'I still think the maxis will win around the world.'
The 35-minute margin Javier de la Gandara had over the second-placed Brad Butterworth, skippering Dennis Conner's Winston, was impressive. His margin of 1hr 45min over Dalton reflected the better upwind performances of the water-ballasted 60s.
But the fastest times down from the Rock, achieved by de la Gandara and Dalton, were identical. The Whitbread Race is mainly downwind and the 60s, unlike in the Fastnet, are prevented from using their bigger, masthead spinnakers on the long Southern Ocean surfing legs.
The problem for Lawrie Smith is that the pounds 1m-plus modifications he has made to Fortuna to make her faster downwind failed to help in this race. He was nearly the slowest of the 10 Whitbread yachts taking part and was 2hrs 27min slower than Dalton downwind in the same conditions.
For Britain, Matt Humphries, skippering the Dolphin and Youth Challenge, finished fifth of the six Whitbread 60s. Humphries had to contend with a split starboard water ballast tank just after Land's End, which slowed him when beating up to the Rock, and also blown out masthead gennakers, which slowed his run back down. Worries, though, that the project might have to be put on hold for a lack of cash were lifted slightly yesterday as talks progressed with a potential major sponsor.
Last night, the attention was on the climax of the Champagne Mumm Admiral's Cup as Germany made a late run to dislodge Australia. In as tight a finish as you will see in ocean racing, Britain's Indulgence won the 50-foot class by nine seconds from Australia's Ragamuffin and France's Corum Saphir. But everything hung in the balance as Germany's 45- footer Rubin and 40-footer Pinta sought to narrow a 10-point gap to snatch the premier prize.
The Italian challenge collapsed along with the mast of their 45-footer Larouge, leaving the 40-footer Brava Q8, skippered by Paul Cayard, as the last of their three boats still racing.
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