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SAILING

Swedes sail on despite penalty

Sweden's Ericsson Nordic team said on Friday it plans to take part in the inaugural event of this year's Volvo round the world yacht race despite what it considers an unjust penalty for a rules infringement.

A jury appointed by the International Sailing Federation on Thursday ruled

that the keel of the Ericsson Nordic yacht “contained cavities which could not

be completely filled, and was therefore not solid.”

It said the team may take part in the race, but must receive point reductions at each stage of the event.

“We’re obviously very disappointed by the ruling, but it won’t stop us from competing at a high level on the race course tomorrow,” said the team’s captain, Anders Lewander.

The event officially gets underway on Saturday with an ‘in-port’ race in the Spanish Mediterranean port of Alicante, for which of the eight yachts gain points that contribute to the overall totals that will decide the winner.

The first offshore leg begins on October 11th, when the yachts head out of Alicante for the Strait of Gibraltar before heading south across the Atlantic to Cape Town, South Africa.

Ericsson Racing Team’s managing director, Richard Brisius, said Thursday he was “really shocked” by the jury’s decision, and called for a reopening of the hearing so the team could present new evidence.

At issue are three cavities in the keel, which the team last month had filled with 162.55 kilogrammes. But the event’s Rule Management Committee decided there still remained a void of 625 grams.

Other teams taking part in the Volvo Ocean Race are Sweden’s Ericsson International, the race favorite, Spain’s Telefonica Black and Telefonica Blue, Team Russia, US entry Puma Ocean Racing, the Sino-Irish Green Dragon and Team Delta Lloyd from the Netherlands.

The are nine stops – Cape Town, Cochin in India, Singapore, Qingdao in China, Rio de Janeiro, Boston, Galway in Ireland, Gothenburg and Stockholm – before the finish in St Petersburg, expected in June 2009.

The teams receive points according to their position in each leg.

VOLVO

British sailor on verge of Gothenburg double

Briton Ian Walker aims to complete a rare Volvo Ocean Race double on Saturday as the biggest yachting race in the world finally reaches its climax in the Swedish port of Gothenburg.

British sailor on verge of Gothenburg double
British sailor Ian Walker. Photo: TT
Walker's Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing already claimed the overall, offshore trophy, the main event of the nine-month, 38,739-nautical mile offshore marathon, in Gothenburg on Monday.
 
His team are also six points ahead in the in-port series that has been held in the 10 ports hosting the triennial event since it started in Alicante, Spain, on October 4th last year.
 
Anything other than a failure to finish or last place in the seven-strong fleet coupled with a victory for closest rivals, Team Brunel (Netherlands), in Saturday's Gothenburg race will see the Emirati-backed crew over the line as in-port champions.
 
Brunel were also second to Abu Dhabi in the offshore race.
 
The offshore and in-port double is not unique in Volvo Ocean Race history — Mike Sanderson's ABN AMRO ONE achieved it in 2005-06 — but victory would be another major feather in the cap for a region which only entered the 41-year-old event for the first time in 2011-12 under the Abu Dhabi flag.
 

The Volvo race ends in Gothenburg this weekend. Photo: TT
 
Walker, 45, was taking nothing for granted in the nine-month race's final press conference on Friday.
 
“We try to win everything we do,” he said. “Basically, we just have to make sure we don't finish last.
 
“But it's a pretty tight race course and there's plenty of trouble out there if you're not careful.”
 
Team Brunel skipper Bouwe Bekking, 52, could be forgiven for being sick of the sight of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's stern after trying to catch it over 38,739 nautical miles and nine offshore legs.
 
However, he has not totally given up hope of an upset result that will rely on his opponents slipping up uncharacteristically badly.
 
“We will fight for it and we still have a slight chance,” he told reporters. “It would certainly be nice to win that trophy.”
 
The action will start at 2pm local time (12pm GMT) and so far the forecasters are predicting strong enough winds to offer the prospect of a fitting finale to the memorable and extraordinarily close-run global event.