Copyright 1998 Associated Press 
All Rights Reserved

May 22, 1998, Friday, AM cycle

SECTION: Sports News
LENGTH: 428 words
HEADLINE: American skipper relishes Whitbread victory
EF Language skipper Paul Cayard led his crew to overall victory in the Whitbread Round the World race when he reached France last week ahead of Swedish Match, its only rival for the title.

Now, all Cayard has to do is safely cross the finish line of the 450-mile leg from La Rochelle, France, to Southampton, England, and pick up the trophy.

But the American skipper wants to compete.

"Because we've won it (the points race), we're going to go for the win," he said before the nine-boat fleet set off Friday on the ninth and final leg. "We want to finish this thing up with a win."

Due to erratic weather patterns this weekend, a win may be difficult.

"Right now there's a high pressure ridge moving in around Ireland and heading east," Cayard said. "The wind currents will be quite small and we may have to drop anchor, which is something we haven't done all race. It makes things unpredictable."

Adding to the outside shot of winning the final leg is that EF Language's crew is not at full strength.

Marco Constant broke his wrist on leg seven, but he will be on board for leg nine.

Cayard said that Constant deserves to be on the boat as it finishes because he was a part of the the crew which won the first, third and fifth legs.

The crowds gathered at Southampton would be happy to see the yachts come in neck and neck, as they did during EF Language's win on leg three from Fremantle to Sydney, Australia.

Cayard said he would enjoy another tight finish, but just crossing the line will stir up tremendous emotions.

"This leg will be more symbolic," he said. "All the boats will go through the emotions. We'll be greeted by a huge collection of (spectators') boats. The scene last year when they saw us out was pretty impressive."

While British bookmakers set EF Language's odds of victory at 20-1 because of Cayard's limited long-distance racing experience, he says his crew's lengthy experience in short-distances was one key to victory.

"Nine out of our 12 guys have an America's Cup background, and that was an advantage," he said. "At the end of the day, when you're freezing, sailing through the Southern Ocean and the only land for days is the tip of Antarctica, it's easier to pull back than to speed up."

Cayard said, despite the hardships of the Whitbread race, it won't be long before he longs to get back on the water.

"Once everyone has gone home and is taking hot showers and sleeping in their own beds every night, it'll take about three weeks for us to want to be out there again, dodging the whales and the icebergs."

LOAD-DATE: May 22, 1998