Sailing: Silk Cut forced to retire

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THE stately minuet that has become the closing stages of the fifth leg of the Whitbread Race for all but the winner, Paul Cayard's EF Education, is likely to finish tonight for the pair disputing second and third.

For Lawrie Smith's Silk Cut, at least, it is all over. After losing their mast to weeks ago they have limped along, and they officially retired from the leg yesterday. But the women of EF Education are fitting their new mast at Ushuaia in Argentina, in the Beagle Channel at the southern tip of South America, and will complete the leg.

Roy Heiner's Brunel Sunergy, the only one of the nine yachts not designed by Bruce Farr, continues to hold off Dee Smith's Chessie Racing by just over 10 miles. It is a precarious lead, but the Judel and Vrolijk design has kept this up for four days.

It is supplies of food and fuel that are running out on some of the other boats, including Gunnar Krantz's Swedish Match, which continues to lead the chasing group.

Tracy Edwards and the all-woman crew of the 92ft catamaran Royal and Sun Alliance are progressing well as they try to set a new non-stop around the world record. They have covered 7,041 miles in the first 22 days for an average of 13.3 knots.

WHITBREAD ROUND THE WORLD Fifth leg (Auckland to Sao Sebastiao, Brazil): 1 EF Language (Swe) 23 days 1hr 9min 23sec; 2 Brunel Sunergy (Neth) 288.3 miles to finish; 3 Chessie Racing (US) 299.1; 4 Swedish Match (Swe) 391.4; 5 Merit Cup (Monaco) 401.7; 6 Toshiba (US) 416.2; 7 Innovation Kvaerner (Nor) 541.5; 8 Silk Cut (GB) 1239.4; 9. EF Education (Swe) 2160.1.

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