Sailing: Smith puts in a sprint towards tight finish: Leader of the Whitbread pack accelerates as Butterworth goes west for the wind

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WITH Brad Butterworth in Winston making a fast, late run on the west side of the fleet, a close finish was expected here today for the second leg of the Whitbread Round the World Race.

After being slowed by light airs, Britain's Lawrie Smith in Intrum Justitia had speeded up and stretched his lead to 48 miles over Chris Dickson in Tokio. Smith is expected to cross the line at midday (0400 GMT). Pierre Fehlmann, in Merit Cup, was leading the larger maxis, 16 miles ahead of Grant Dalton in New Zealand Endeavour.

Fehlmann is carrying a deficit of 8hr 22min from the first leg and will be lucky to wipe that out, having taken so long to pass Dalton, who has been without the top of his mizzen mast for the last 10 days. Intrum started the 8,000-mile second leg through the Southern Ocean with a 16-hour deficit on Tokio. Last night, their best hope of clawing back time lay in holding a breeze into the finish and then seeing it die on their chasing rival.

Matteo Plazzi, Winston's navigator, said: 'It looks like we will keep this pressure system (15 to 20 knots) until the finish.'

WHITBREAD ROUND THE WORLD RACE Second leg (Punta del Este, Urug, to Fremantle, Aus): Positions, with miles to the finish (Whitbread 60 class unless stated): 1 Intrum Justitia 145; 2 Tokio 193; 3 Yamaha 247; 4 Merit Cup (Maxi class) 254; 5 New Zealand Endeavour (Maxi) 270; 6 Galicia '93 Pescanova 275; 7 Winston 433; 8 La Poste (Maxi) 971; 9 Hetman Sahaidachny 1,335; 10 Women's Challenge 1,343; 11 *Brooksfield 1,530; 12 Uruguay Natural (Maxi) 1,734; 13 Odessa 1,751; 14 Dolphin & Youth, 1,979.

*Position as of 6 December.