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.