Sailing: Smith takes a gamble and heads north

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LAWRIE SMITH made his tactical break yesterday afternoon, striking north in search of stronger transatlantic westerlies and a margin of advantage to win not only the sixth and final leg of the Whitbread Round The World Race but to pip the overall W60 leader, Ross Field's Yamaha, writes Stuart Alexander.

The move cost him miles but Smith needs to pull back 10 and a half hours over the next week if he is to take Intrum Justitia up from second to first place. In the last 24 hours, also, he saw his world-record distance of 428.7 miles in 24 hours, set on leg four, threatened by Chris Dickson's Tokio. The Kiwi recorded 427.6 and in one burst of six hours averaged more than 20 knots.

Still well in front of the fleet and the maxis is Pierre Fehlmann's Merit Cup, over 100 miles ahead of Grant Dalton's New Zealand Endeavour, and with him on the easterly tack is the Italian yacht Brooksfield, completing a week at the front of the W60s.

At the Sap Olympic regatta in Medemblik Britain's John Merricks leads the 470s, Stuart Childerley the Solings and Mark Littlejohn the Lasers going into the finals tomorrow.