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SAILING

Swedish boats take Volvo Ocean Race lead

The two ships belonging to Swedish team Ericsson took the lead Sunday of the Volvo Ocean Race around the world one day after it departed from Spain while Spanish team Telefonica Blue's ship had to make a stop to repair steering damage.

Ericsson 3 and Ericsson 4 were tied in the lead after they crossed the Strait of Gibraltar on their way down the Atlantic to Cape Town in South Africa where the first leg of the race will end.

Telefonica Blue meanwhile stopped at the port of Algeciras in the Bay of Gibraltar to fix a tiller arm which broke after they were just 20 miles into the first leg, leaving them with just one rudder.

They now have to serve a 12-hour penalty under the pit stop rule before re-starting.

“How do we feel? Just gutted. The good thing is that we crawled back on some of the other boats, but the Ericsson guys are in fat city,” Dutch skipper Bouwe Bekking said in the dispatch sent to race headquarters.

Winds, which were gusting at more than 20 knots an hour when the race got underway, have weakened to 5-6 knots.

Thousands of people and hundreds of spectator boats saw off the eight yachts representing seven nations on Saturday from the Mediterranean port of Alicante in the presence of Spanish King Juan Carlos.

After 37,000 nautical miles (68,500 kilometres), the finish line is in St. Petersburg, Russia, where the teams are expected in June 2009.

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.