Sailing: Smith celebrates with a beer

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The Independent Online
A TRIUMPHAL arch created by the water cannon of four escorting tugs greeted Britain's Lawrie Smith as he skippered Silk Cut into the harbour here to win the sixth leg of the Whitbread Round the World race from Brazil to Florida.

As Tim Powell shinned out along the spinnaker pole to release the towering, purple spinnaker that had powered them across the finish line, there was an almost tangible mixture of exhilaration and relief.

Smith, sipping a well-earned beer after completing the 4,750-mile leg in 14 days, 19 hours, 55 minutes and nine seconds, said: "We always knew the boat was fast and the crew good enough. We could have won the last leg if we hadn't broken the mast. But this was good for the guys, they have worked very hard for this."

The boost to the British crew was immeasurable. Although in terms of points it only moves the pre-race favourites from seventh to sixth overall, they have re-established a belief in themselves which they believe will lead to more success in the remaining three legs.

"The partnership between Lawrie and navigator Vincent Geake is working well," crewman Gordon Maguire said. "It's nice to stop banging our heads against the wall. It's days like this that make it all worthwhile."

Second by just an hour and 18 minutes on a leg sailed in four days less than expected was Paul Cayard's EF Language. However, the American skipper was still dissatisfied, despite extending his overall lead. "Coming second leaves a bad taste in my mouth," he said.

Cayard dismissed Smith's contention that superior sails had made the difference over the last four days. "They won the race on positioning," he said, which implied some criticism of his navigator, Mark Rudiger.

The rest of the fleet were due to arrive over the next 24 hours, the closest race being between Paul Standbridge (Toshiba) and John Kostecki (Chessie Racing). Chessie needs to beat Toshiba to stay fourth overall.

WHITBREAD ROUND THE WORLD RACE: (sixth leg, 4,750 miles, Sao Sebastiao, Bra, to Fort Lauderdale, US): 1 Silk Cut (GB) L Smith 14 days, 19hr, 55min, 9sec; 2 EF Language (Swe) P Cayard +1hr 18min; 3 Swedish Match (Swe) G Krantz 22.1 miles to finish; 4 Innovation Kvaerner (Nor) K Frostad 115.1; 5 Merit Cup (Monaco) G Dalton 150.6; 6 Chessie Racing (US) J Kostecki 214.4; 7 Toshiba (US) P Standbridge 214.9; 8 Brunel Sunergy (Neth) R Heiner 306.1; 9 EF Education (Swe) C Guillou 337.7.

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