Sailing: Smith paying high price for gamble

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AS Paul Standbridge kept Toshiba's nose just in front of Grant Dalton's Merit Cup, and Paul Cayard sneaked EF Language ahead of Knut Frostad's Innovation Kvaerner, Lawrie Smith was paying a high price to dive north and join the procession in the eighth leg of the Whitbread Race yesterday.

With 1,500 miles to go to the finish of the 3,400-mile north Atlantic run from Annapolis to La Rochelle, Smith was 116 miles behind Standbridge having abandoned the more southerly option he had been favouring.

But he still had a couple of miles advantage over the backmarker, John Kostecki in Chessie Racing, despite putting up the slowest average in the nine-boat fleet at just over 10 knots.

This compared with over 16 being recorded by the top four boats and was 4 knots slower then the all-woman crew on EF Education, which is continuing to put up a strong performance in fifth place, 10 miles ahead of Gunnar Krantz in Swedish Match.

There is still an element of follow my leader at this stage of the race, with all eyes immediately on avoiding any danger of ice as the boats clear the Labrador current and the water temperatures start to rise again. It is the high-pressure weather system they are approaching over the next 48 hours which could provide any upsets as the organisers revise their estimation of the finish time to a spectator-friendly Saturday morning.

"It didn't go our way with the high pressure. Nearly all the yachts have cleared the ice exclusion zone but they seem to be holding the same course they have held for some time," Krantz said. "This is not quite the Great Circle route but is slightly below it. The boats will be looking forward to a depression falling in front of them and hoping they can get a good lift."

Britain's Damian Foxall, partnered by Sidney Gavignet, is holding seventh place as the Figaro fleet fights the last 1,000 miles of their second leg from Madeira to St Barts.

WHITBREAD ROUND THE WORLD RACE Eighth leg: (3,390 miles, Annapolis, US to La Rochelle, Fr): 1 Toshiba (US) P Standbridge 1,675 miles to finish; 2 Merit Cup (Monaco) G Dalton 1.3 miles behind leader; 3 EF Language (Swe) P Cayard +18.7; 4 Innovation Kvaerner (Nor) K Frostad +20.2; 5 EF Education (Swe) C Guillou +30.6; 6 Swedish Match (Swe) G Krantz +41.3; 7 Brunel Sunergy (Neth) R Heiner 41.9; 8 Silk Cut (GB) L Smith +82.7; 9 Chessie Racing (US) J Kostecki +91.4.