Sailing: Sydney next stop for BT Challenge

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The Independent Online
While Paul Hebblethwaite, the deaf and dumb crewmember of Time & Tide, was able to reassure an anxious mother by a video-link with Leeds that all was well with him and his disabled colleagues, the rest of his crew plus those of the other 13 yachts were making final preparations in Wellington for tomorrow's start of the third leg of the BT Challenge.

After the rigours of rounding Cape Horn and covering 6,600 miles from Rio, Hebblethwaite's task of completing a 1,250-mile dash across the Tasman Sea to Sydney looks relatively straightforward. He should be in the bars around Darling Harbour by next Saturday.

So much so, that a small army of sponsor company executives, journalists, photographers and even Prince Michael of Kent have joined the regulars who form the core of the fare-paying amateur crews taking part in a circumnavigation to achieve the dream of a lifetime.

Still leading on combined elapsed time is Mike Golding (Group 4), having taken 65 days, 11 hours, three minutes and 45 seconds since leaving Southampton last October. Second is Simon Walker (Toshiba, 66:03:23.34), while Hebblethwaite is nearly a week behind Golding. Last is Chris Tibbs (Concert 77:04:40.23) after being dismasted on the last leg from Rio.

Chris Law lines up against Peter Gilmour, the Australian-born, Japanese America's Cup skipper, in the semi-final of the Australia Cup - the first of the 1997 match race grands prix - in Matilda Bay, Perth, today.

Law was third behind Gilmour and Sweden's Magnus Holmberg after 22 round- robin races for the 12 competing skippers. Holmberg's opponent will be Thierry Peponnet of France, who edged his fellow countryman Bertrand Pace out of the top four places.