Smith leads sprint as Conner slips up

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The Independent Online
It was predictable that Paul Cayard would hit the ground running when the fourth leg of the Whitbread Round the World Race started in Sydney yesterday.

What was unexpected was the sight of Dennis Conner making a mistake. Stuart Alexander reports.

Can anyone stop Paul Cayard? The American skipper of Sweden's EF Language once again hit the start line perfectly to lead the Whitbread fleet out of Sydney on the fourth leg to Auckland as the man who is both his former America's Cup colleague and adversary, Dennis Conner, mistimed his run by three seconds and had to start again.

By last night it was Britain's Lawrie Smith who was closer to Auckland, but Cayard had worked his way to a position 16 miles further north, and the wind was swinging favourably for him.

Conner's mistake was uncharacteristic. He prides himself on being a master judge of time and distance. For once his skill let him down, however, and Conner - who left it until the last minute his announcement about joining co-skipper Paul Standbridge on Toshiba for the 1,270-mile sprint - was further embarrassed as the sail he needed to make fastest progress refused to unfurl. That left him with half a sail and a lot of head scratching.

Not that his was the only crew making heavy weather of handling the new style of headsail in the light 10-knot breeze. Gunnar Krantz's Swedish Match was also struggling with the masthead monster and George Collins' Chessie Racing ripped the furling mechanism out of the bow attachment. Called either Code Ones or Code Zeros, they are a feature of the sail design developments which have emerged in this seventh Whitbread and, made from a heavy weight of Spectra or Kevlar cloth, crews are still learning how best to use them.

Most of the fleet was heading east, in a wind shifting through 20 degrees and varying from eight to over 15 knots. The two most southerly boats were also the backmarkers, Roy Heiner in Brunel Sunergy and Christine Guillou's EF Education.

WHITBREAD ROUND THE WORLD RACE (fourth leg, 1,270 miles, Sydney to Auckland): 1 Silk Cut (GB) L Smith 1,185 miles to finish; 2 EF Language (Swe) P Cayard 0.2 miles behind; 3 Swedish Match (Swe) G Krantz 0.6; 4 Chessie Racing (US) G Collins 2.2; 5 Innovation Kvaerner (Nor) K Frostad 4.3; 6 Toshiba (US) D Conner 5.3; 7 Merit Cup (Monaco) G Dalton 5.4; 8 Brunel Sunergy (Neth) R Heiner 11.9; 9 EF Education (Swe) C Guillou 12.8.