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Tuesday, 28 April, 1998, 00:15 GMT 01:15 UK
Leg Seven: Dutch courage prevails
brunelsunergywins300
BrunelSunergy's crew celebrate as they cross the finishing line
BrunelSunergy has won the seventh leg of the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race.

The Dutch yacht was met by dozens of boats and hundreds of spectators on shore as it passed Fort McHenry at the entrance to the harbour at 0900 BST on Wednesday, three miles ahead of second-placed Swedish Match.

brunelsunergy sunset150
BrunelSunergy was just three miles ahead of Swedish Match
Crew members punched the air in celebration as Swedish Match and EF Language finished within 30 seconds of one another in second and third places.

BrunelSunergy's victory was based on a tactical decision taken before they left Fort Lauderdale in Florida at the beginning of the leg.

Instead of following the northward Gulf Stream they headed further out to sea and went into Chesapeake Bay on a northwest tack.

The tactic paid off, as the wind shifted to the northeast, hampering the rest of the fleet who had taken a more northerly route.

"We went to the right straight up from the Bahamas to Cape Hatteras," said British navigator Stuart Quarrie.

The BrunelSunergy crew decided that if they took a route closer to the coast "we were going to be dead in the water", Quarrie said.

BrunelSunergy finished second in Leg 5, but came last in the first two legs and next to last in the third and fourth legs.

The crew said in an e-mail during the leg that it was on a mission to prove wrong the critics who said they could not compete in the race.

The British yacht Silk Cut narrowly lost out in a thrilling fight for fourth place in the leg. Lawrie Smith's crew had been locked in a head-to-head battle with Innovation Kvaerner for the final 30 hours of the stage and the two boats arrived only four minutes apart in Baltimore around 2200 BST on Wednesday.

But despite losing out to their Norwegian rivals, Silk Cut finished just 63 minutes behind BrunelSunergy, to leave it in sixth place overall with two legs remaining.

"In such a short leg it was always going to be difficult to catch anyone that got away," said skipper Smith. "About 24 hours in we fell into a hole and others got away.

"We kept pushing as hard as we could but just couldn't get on terms with them."

The seventh leg placings continue the tussle for the overall lead between Swedish Match with 585 points and EF Language with 689.

heiner150
Roy Heiner celebrates his victory
BrunelSunergy is well adrift with 353 points, but Swedish Match skipper Paul Cayard paid tribute to the Dutch skipper Roy Heiner's tactics. "They made another great move to take the lead," he said.

"We could never afford to do that, but they can and they did. That is great to see and more power to them."

The 870-nautical-mile sprint to Baltimore was the second shortest leg in the race. But that didn't make it easy, as the fleet faced some of the worst weather conditions so far in the 31,600 mile race.

The boats faced pounding waves and 25-knot headwinds as they followed the Gulf Stream up the coast.

"I am being thrown around the [navigation] station as I write this," Silk Cut crewmember Adrian Stead said via e-mail.

"Sleeping in the bunks is like a roller-coaster ride at the fairground. You lie there with your feet forward and suddenly your stomach goes light as the bow leaps off a wave into the unknown."

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Toshiba finished seventh
Silk Cut's watch leader Gordon Maguire added: "We have all been to hell and back and everyone is very tired."

"We were slamming around like mad. If you were standing up, it was easy to fall over, and it felt like the boat was going to break," said Stuart Quarrie.

The race began in Southampton in September 1997 and will finish there in May.

The race's eighth leg will begin on May 3rd, when the crews leave Annapolis for La Rochelle in France.

Leg 7 results:

  • 1. BrunelSunergy (Holland) 3days 3hr 59min 39 sec (105 pts)
  • 2. Swedish Match (Sweden) 3d 4:20:24 (92)
  • 3. EF Language (Sweden) 3d 4:20:54 (81)
  • 4. Innovation Kvaerner (Norway) 3d 4:58:36 (70)
  • 5. Silk Cut (Great Britain) 3d 5:02:07 (60)
  • 6. Merit Cup (Monaco) 3d 5:21:44 (50)
  • 7. Toshiba (USA) 3d 5:30:43 (40)
  • 8. Chessie Racing (USA) 3d 5:30:53 (30)
  • 9. EF Education (Sweden) 3d 5:39:54 (20)

Overall standings

  • 1. EF Language, 689 pts
  • 2. Swedish Match 585
  • 3. Merit Cup 527
  • 4. Innovation Kvaerner 519
  • 5. Chessie Racing 484
  • 6. Silk Cut 459
  • 7. Toshiba 383
  • 8. BrunelSunergy 353
  • 9. EF Education 168
See also:

19 Apr 98 | Whitbread yacht race
02 Apr 98 | Whitbread yacht race
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