Phil Weld, the retired newspaper publisher from Gloucester, Mass., carried his lead in the Observer single-handed transatlantic race from England to within 200 miles of the finish here today.

Weld, 65, the oldest competitor, appeared to be making slow progress in the variable winds offshore. He could finish sometime late Tuesday.

Another American, Philip Steggall, appeared to have slipped into second place in the fleet of 82 boats, reduced by withdrawals from the 88 which departed Plymouth on June 7.

The progress of the individual yachts, each sailed by one person, has been closely followed this year by satellite, heightening the drama of a race considered one of the most grueling of all competitive sailing events.

Steggall's position was reported by French camera crew that had chartered a light aircraft here.

The visual sighting put Steggall ahead of Canadian Michael Birch, now third. Earlier satellite reports had Walter Green of the United States and Nick Kleig of Great Britain Gustaaf Versluup and Tom gain Gustaaf Versluup and Tom Grossman of Boston.

Versluup's yacht is a 44-foot sloop, but each of the other frontrunners is sailing a trimaran, an ultralight three-hulled vessel built especially for this race.

Three sailors based in Annapolis are entered. Yacht broker Francis Stokes was last reported in 15th place in his monohull Moonshine. William Homewood, in a 31-foot trimaran, was listed 28th. Judy Lawson, whose boat is named Serta Perfect Sleeper after her mattress company sponsor, was reported 79th. Naomi James, the other remaining woman competitor, was 46th.