Sailing / Round the World Race: Tokio the target on Tasman Sea trek: Grant Dalton, skipper of NZ Endeavour who is writing for the Independent during the Round the World yacht race, ponders the problems posed by the tough third leg

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The Independent Online
THIS has been a really tricky leg so far, with the classic dilemma of how quickly and how hard to go south. Now we all know because Dennis Conner and Brad Butterworth on Winston have shown us the way.

There is still a long way to go but their break is looking increasingly like a winning one. Their lead has been up to 146 miles although it is back to 96 now. Of course, the Tasman Sea can still be fickle, but I have said I would be happy to have a 40- or 50-mile lead when we turn the corner at the bottom of Tasmania and Winston should have a lot more than that.

While we wanted to go south we also wanted to stay with the opposition so now we have a lot of difficulty in dealing with what was a very smart move. It is clear that similar problems may be posed on the remaining three legs as yachts with nothing to lose take a calculated risk in search of big rewards.

Back in the pack we have good speed and the mood on board is positive as we are slowly losing everyone except Tokio. We are not thinking of Auckland yet, though we still want to be first home.

But just as important to us is to beat Chris Dickson in Tokio by at least three hours of elapsed time, the aggregate lead he has on us for the first two legs. I know he wishes to keep the maxis and the 60s separate, but we want the overall lead and we want it all the way to Southampton. At the moment we are less than 10 miles ahead so there is a fair amount of work to do.

We are also having to keep an eye on La Poste, which is being sailed better under new skipper Eric Tabarly and navigator Halvard Mabire. We felt she had some extra potential but we have 20 miles on them so our nerves are not too frayed.

Pierre Fehlmann's Merit Cup, now third in the maxi class, seems to be suffering just by being too far north, and that could also be the reason for Lawrie Smith's Intrum Justitia returning to its middle-of- the-fleet position.

They were level pegging with the third maxi, Pierre Fehlmann's Merit Cup, and the British Whitbread 60, Dolphin & Youth, had established itself as ninth of the 14 boats overall, sixth W60, by pulling out a 16-mile lead over the Italian yacht, Brooksfield.

Race organisers were predicting that the high pressure zone, which is still developing at the bottom of the Tasman Sea, will slow the whole fleet.

WHITBREAD ROUND THE WORLD RACE (Third leg, Fremantle to Auckland) Positions with nautical miles to finish: 1 Winston (US) 2,006; 2 *New Zealand Endeavour (NZ) 2,104; 3 Tokio (Japan) 2,116; 4 *La Poste (Fr) 2,132; 5 Yamaha (Japan) 2,155; 6 Galicia 93 Pescanova (Sp) 2,155; 7 Intrum Justitia (NZ) 2,174; 8 *Merit Cup (Swit) 2,174; 9 Dolphin and Youth (GB) 2,195; 10 Brooksfield (It) 2,211; 11 Heineken (US) 2,244; 12 Hetman Sahaidachny (Ukr) 2,271; 13 *Uruguay Natural (Urug) 2,318; 14 Odessa (Ukr) 2,352. * Maxis