Sailing: Smith loses ground: Whitbread Round the World Race

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LAWRIE SMITH'S tactical plan to go hard north on the final leg of the Whitbread Round the World Race was proving costly yesterday as he slipped to 40 miles behind the overall leader in the Whitbread 60 class, Ross Field's Yamaha.

The whole fleet picked up speed but Smith's W60, Intrum Justitia, was in sixth place, while the gamble of heading west appeared to pay off for the two leaders in the class, the Italian yacht, Brooksfield, and Spain's Galicia.

How long that will work for them remains to be seen, as the forecast is for the wind to swing into the west and be stronger for the easterly group.

That will also help Pierre Fehlmann maintain his lead in the maxi class. His Merit Cup was yesterday still nearly 70 miles ahead of the yacht temporarily making the best speed, Eric Tabarly's La Poste. The overall maxi leader, Grant Dalton, will not be too worried yet, though his New Zealand Endeavour is a further 10 miles astern of La Poste. But he is only 26 miles behind Field, the only man with a realistic chance of upsetting his goal to be the fastest man around the world.

The 14 yachts are spread across a 160-mile front and not all have been helped by the north-flowing Gulf Stream. Ross Field said: 'We have taken a more easterly heading to take advantage of the breeze at the moment and we have good boat speed. We were bouncing all over the place in the Gulf Stream because of the wind against tide and we were having to button back, but now we have Intrum tucked away behind us.'

WHITBREAD ROUND THE WORLD RACE Sixth leg (Fort Lauderdale to Southampton) Positions (with miles to finish): Maxi: 1 Merit Cup 3,337; 2 La Poste 3,405; 3 New Zealand Endeavour 3,415; 4 Uruguay Natural 3,492. Whitbread 60s: 1 Brooksfield 3,350; 2 Galicia '93 Pescanova 3,366; 3 Yamaha 3,389; 4 Tokio 3,399; 5 Heineken 3,427; 6 Intrum Justitia 3,429; 7 Winston 3,438; 8 Reebok 3,441; 9 Hetman Sahaidachny 3,466; 10 Odessa 3,524.

Positions supplied by BT