Sailing: Silk Cut in a sudden surge

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The Independent Online

FROM last to first, positions on the eighth leg of the Whitbread Race were turned upside down yesterday as two British skippers, Paul Standbridge and Lawrie Smith, moved from eighth and ninth to share the lead, writes Stuart Alexander from Annapolis, Maryland.

First, the boats taking a northerly track on the western Atlantic side of the 3,400 mile run from here to La Rochelle were favoured, as Paul Cayard led on EF Language. Then it looked as if both Knut Frostad and Grant Dalton, who had stayed further south to pick up more quickly the free ride of the Gulf Stream, would come charging through.

Languishing at the back were Standbridge, whose Toshiba added a five- hour tangle with a fish trap on the way out of Chesapeake Bay to running aground on the way in, and Smith, whose Silk Cut had also chosen the middle way. These two then picked up their skirts and set the fastest average speeds to go ahead of Cayard.

Just behind EFL, the all-woman crew in the syndicate partnership put Christine Guillou and EF Education into fourth. And Dalton's Merit Cup, just ahead of Frostad's Kvaerner, could only watch as they dropped back to take up the rearguard positions.