EF Language crossed the finish line for Leg 5 of the Whitbread Round the World Race Monday night, but the leg was won more than a week ago when the Swedish entry blasted around Cape Horn and built a 500-nautical-mile lead on the rest of the fleet.
"For us to be first to Cape Horn and to the finish shows we learned from our mistakes on Leg 2, and that is very satisfying," skipper Paul Cayard said after crossing the line about midnight local time in Sao Sebastiao, Brazil. Winning three out of five legs shows we have a good boat, crew and team."
EF Language finished the 6,670-nautical-mile leg from Auckland, New Zealand, in 23 days, 1 hour, 9 minutes and 23 seconds.
Some four dozen spectator boats escorted EF Language across the finish line, and a samba band, dancers and thousands of revelers in this Brazilian port to celebrate Carnival welcomed the racing crew ashore.
With 507 points, EF Language is solidly in first place after five of the nine legs.
While the lead is substantial - probably 90 points or more after the fleet finishes this leg - Cayard said no one is unbeatable" in the Whitbread, and one has only to look to Leg 2, from Cape Town, South Africa, to Fremantle, Australia, to see that even EF Language can be beaten. EF Language finished fifth on Leg 2.
"We obviously took a look at ourselves in the mirror after the second leg and analyzed what we did wrong," said Cayard, whose first encounter with the riotous conditions of the Southern Ocean came on Leg 2.
"I think Paul definitely learned his lesson, and he listened to the guys who had been in the Southern Ocean a little bit more," said navigator Mark Rudiger, adding that Cayard and crew pushed their Whitbread 60 harder on Leg 5 than on Leg 2. We were a little bit on edge at times, but we always found that right balance [between breakneck speed and safety]."
While still 600 miles west of Cape Horn, EF Language began to break away from the rest of the fleet, and Cayard reported an average of 18 knots for an entire week, sailing much of the time under an enormous masthead spinnaker nicknamed Big Kahuna."
"I suspected then that no one else was pushing that hard, or maybe they did not have masthead kites [spinnakers] anymore," Cayard said.
And after rounding Cape Horn on Feb. 15, Language stretched its lead to 400 miles before backing off the throttle. While the balance of the fleet wallowed in light air near Cape Horn, Cayard and crew sailed conservatively. No matter how far ahead you are," Rudiger said, you always have to remember that what got you there can get them there as well."
Pub Date: 2/25/98