Sailing: Smith cruises up into third place

More jockeying for position at the front of the fleet saw the Briton Lawrie Smith move Silk Cut up to third place on the third leg of the Whitbread Round the World race yesterday.

The nine yachts are still behind schedule on the 2,250 miles from Fremantle to Sydney after contending with headwinds. The weather was set to cause another shuffle last night as the group in the north met with light and variable winds while those in the south were in fresher, westerly breezes coming from a low pressure area.

Back in the lead is the British skipper, Paul Standbridge, in Dennis Conner's Toshiba, by four miles from George Collins in Chessie Racing, who has been revitalised by the presence of John Kostecki, but with Smith in Silk Cut less than a mile away. Predictions about the importance of short course racing skills are coming true.

Paul Cayard, the former leader, is now fourth in EF Language, but hoping that his more southerly cover will work out. Sixth-placed and twitchy is Grant Dalton, in Merit Cup, hoping that his more northerly option will pay dividends, but all the competitors know that the race to the Bass Straits is all they can concentrate on now. The whole thing will restart up the east coast of Australia.

The opening of the Southern Cross saw the much-fancied Chinese team fighting a decision to disqualify their top boat, Beau Geste, skippered by Gavin Brady, from the first race for a premature start as the Australia national team took the lead after the opening pair of races.

However, Brady's China team-mate Warwick Miller, in the 66ft Exile, scored two second places after an all-night race against time to fit a new mast.

Britain's Royal Navy entry, Quest, had a less than glorious opening pair of races.

WHITBREAD ROUND THE WORLD RACE (Third leg, 2,250 miles, Fremantle to Sydney): 1 Toshiba (US) 1,169 miles to finish of third leg; 2 Chessie Racing (US) 4 miles behind leader; 3 Silk Cut (GB) 4.6 miles; 4 EF Language (Nor) 7.2 miles; 5 Swedish Match (Swe) 19.4 miles, 6 Merit Cup (Monaco) 29.2 miles, 7 Innovation Kvaerner (Nor) 29.2 miles; 8 EF Education (Swe) 35 miles; 9 BrunelSunergy (Neth) 41.3 miles.

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