Sailing: Royal Dorset stumps up the cash to stay in America's Cup

Even the optimists were surprised when 16 challenge syndicates pitched up with the $250,000 (pounds 156,000) bond needed to stay in the 2000 America's Cup game at the weekend.

"We always knew we could count on nine to 12 challengers, but this is amazing," Dyer Jones, the president of the America's Cup Challengers' Association, said.

Britain's Royal Dorset Yacht Club is one of those that continues to make progress towards a knock-out series in October 1999 and spanning the celebrations for 2000. However, all 16 are unlikely to make it to the start line and those that do not will forfeit their bonds.

Of the 18 syndicates who originally put up the $100,000 (pounds 625,000) for the first bond, only one - from Switzerland - has dropped out, while two French syndicates have merged.

The most intriguing of those that remain is Russia's St Petersburg Yacht Club, while China will be represented through Hong Kong's Aberdeen Boat Club.

Six of the 16 are from or affiliated to the United States, including Dyer's own club, and Challenger of Record, the New York Yacht Club, Paul Cayard's St Francis Yacht Club and Dennis Conner's Cortez Racing Association in San Diego.

l Roy Heiner's Brunel Sunergy went looking for wind to the east yesterday, splitting away from the Whitbread fleet as it worked its way south down the coast of New Zealand.

WHITBREAD ROUND THE WORLD RACE (Fifth leg, 6,670 miles, Auckland, NZ, to Sao Sebastiao, Bra): 1 Chessie Racing (US) D Smith 6,372.9 miles to finish; 2 Swedish Match (Swe) G Krantz 3.4 miles behind; 3 Toshiba (US) P Standbridge +3.5; 4 Merit Cup (Monaco) G Dalton +4.1; 5 Innovation Kvaerner (Nor) K Frostad +5.9; 6= EF Language (Swe) P Cayard and EF Education (Swe) C Guillou +6.2; 7 Silk Cut (GB) L Smith +7.0; 8 Brunel Sunergy (Neth) R Heiner 25.4.

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