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Cayard Wins Whitbread First Leg

Bob Fisher Reports

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (Oct. 22, 1997) — Four weeks ago, before the start of the Whitbread Round the World Race, it was possible to lay a bet on Paul Cayard winning the Volvo Trophy at 20-1. As he was first into Cape Town in the early hours of the morning of October 21st, similar bets for the rest of the race are at much shortened odds. Cayard may be a neophyte in this race, but he is far from a beginner in offshore racing, and he has proved that the quality of sailing is singularly important to be at the front of the fleet.

He did not deny, either, that he has been graciously gifted with his navigator-by-default, Mark Rudiger, who in his first Whitbread has called the shots with unerring accuracy. Paul and the rest of the crew have simply piled on the coals to keep the boiler at full steam, utilising the winds on the top of the low pressure areas to make fast average speeds towards the Tavern of the Seas. A two-day run of 798 miles is sufficient testament to their ability.

This delirious pell-mell charge has not been without some risk and even Cayard acknowledged that it has been dangerous. 'Curtis Blewitt, one of our bowmen, had to free climb from the hounds to the masthead, 20 feet more at an altitude of 75 feet above deck, as our only free halyard was jammed up at the top,' he said, adding, 'He is a tough young kid, but I decided never to let him do that again. It just isn't worth it if something were to happen.' On the other hand, Blewitt would need no second bidding.

One thing Cayard was thinking of was a proper meal — at least, plenty of fast food, and no waiting for more than five minutes from the time EF Language hit the dock. There was a hamburger barbecue on the pontoon at which they moored.

Most of the other boats grossly under-provisioned for this leg, and it has gone on even longer than they predicted. They are reaping the harvest of their misjudgement in the worst possible way as Cayard relates, 'The crew is pretty tired. I think the nutrition is one big factor. Also, these boats are very physical. The beating we take when the fire hose [the constant spray from the bow wave at more than 20 knots] is turned on is punishing. It adds up and after the yuks and giggles, you're left beat to a pulp.'

Cayard could have added that Stevie Erickson, who was responsible for their food, had not skimped, and weight loss among the crew was minimal.

— Yachting journalist Bob Fisher
lives in Lymington, England

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