Sailing: Smith lands up on Fortuna

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The Independent Online
LAWRIE SMITH flies into Punta del Este today to take over as skipper of the Whitbread 60 Intrum Justitia in the Whitbread Round The World Race, writes Stuart Alexander.

With just five days to go before Saturday's start of the treacherous second leg through the Southern Ocean to Fremantle in Western Australia, he replaces the injured Roger Nilson, who is recovering in Stockholm from an operation on his left knee.

But the disaffection between Nilson and his pan-European crew goes back to before the start of the race in September and speculation about Smith replacing him began circulating as soon as the boat docked in Uruguay at the end of the first leg from Southampton.

While Smith had to unscramble his ties with the syndicate behind Fortuna, the maxi which was dismasted just 24 hours into the race, his new contract gives him the job for the rest of the race.

As the highest paid yachtsman in Britain, the cost to the sponsors behind Intrum Justitia will be considerable.

Smith has never sailed on a Whitbread 60, the water- ballasted design created specially for the 32,000-mile race, and he badly needs this platform to restore credibility after the near-farcical disappointment of Fortuna.

Alongside him, however, will be his old ally Paul Standbridge, who had already been brought in to boost the crew from 11 to 12.