Sailing / Whitbread Round the World Race: Nature beats Winston

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BRAD BUTTERWORTH made no real complaints about the hand dealt him by the forces of nature on the fourth leg of the Whitbread Race, writes Stuart Alexander from Punta del Este, Uruguay.

'It was a nightmare of a leg,' the co-skipper of Winston said. 'We were absolutely hammered. At one time boats to the north, south, east and west of us were all going quicker.'

There was almost total silence on Winston as she tied up here. No jubilation, no grinning smiles, just dejection etched on the faces of the 11 crew, even a touch of bewilderment in glazed eyes.

After a welcoming ceremony, they hurried away to lick their wounds, but not before the Irish contingent, in the shape of Gordon Maguire, had tried to inject at least a little humour. 'We have been done over by the fickle finger of fate,' he said, dismissing any thought that the crew mix was proving unequal to the job.

It was an expensive leg, dumping Winston back in fifth place among the 60s. She is now 37 hours behind the leader, Tokio.

The Italians quietly continue in sixth and the now-settled pecking order continued when the all-female Heineken finished seventh, Dawn Riley bringing her in well ahead of Britain's Dolphin and Youth, despite a broken rudder. Riley's other big problem had been running through 600 Ibuprofen pills to counter crew bumps and bruises.

WHITBREAD ROUND THE WORLD RACE Fourth leg (Auckland to Punta del Este, Urug) Yesterday's finishing times, plus positions with miles to finish: Maxi class: 1 New Zealand Endeavour; 2 Merit Cup; 3 La Poste; 4 Uruguay Natural 378. Whitbread 60s: 1 Intrum Justitia; 2 Tokio; 3 Yamaha; 4 Galicia '93 Pescanova; 5 Winston 22 days 2hr 26min 24sec; 6 Brooksfield 22:05:47:57; 7 Heineken 22:13:51:52; 8 Dolphin and Youth 22:17:21:37; 9 Hetman Sahaidachny 92; 10 Odessa, 380. BT Results Service.