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Saturday, November 8, 1997 Published at 19:04 GMT


Stiff winds prevail at start of global yacht race
image: [ EF Language currently leads the round the world race ]
EF Language currently leads the round the world race

Nine yachts competing to win the Whitbread Round the World Race set off on Saturday to complete the second leg of the Whitbread Round-the-World yacht race bound for western Australia.

The vessels began the race from the South African port of Cape Town to round two marker buoys before heading off into the unforgiving waters of the Southern Ocean towards Freemantle, Australia.

Britain's Silk Cut, with skipper Lawrie Smith, edged ahead in the first few miles with Sweden's Match and America's Toshiba following closely behind.

The rest of the fleet, including the first-leg winner, Sweden's EF Language, were battling in a tight pack just off the leaders.

The 4,600-mile (7,360-km) stretch includes some of the world's toughest sailing and should take about three weeks.

Earlier, the mayor of Cape Town, Rev William Bantom, wished the crews a swift journey and said a prayer for their safe arrival in Australia.

"No-one controls the waves and we cannot guarantee a safe passage to Freemantle no matter how much we wish to do so," Bantom said. "May God bless you all."

After Australia and New Zealand, the yachts head back to Britain via Cape Horn, past Brazil, the east coast of the United States and across the Atlantic to Brittany.

The race finishes next May with a final sprint of 450 miles from La Rochelle to Southampton.

Paul Cayard's Swedish yacht EF Language won the 7,350 mile first leg two weeks ago, with a time of 29 days, 16 hours, and 54 minutes.

In second place is Merit Cup from Monaco, with skipper Grant Dalton. The Norwegian vessel Innovation Kvaerner, with Knut Frostad at the helm, is in third place.

The last-placed boat Brunel Sunergy underwent repairs after its mast was bent by huge waves during the crossing from England, organisers said. The boat also picked up a new navigator, Stuart Quarrie, in Cape Town.


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