Swedish yacht wins first leg of Volvo race

Swedish yacht wins first leg of Volvo race
Swedish yacht Ericsson 4 has won the first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race. Ericsson 4 sailed into Cape Town harbour on Sunday morning an estimated eight hours ahead of nearest competitor Puma.

The Ericsson 4, which became the fastest monohull yacht ever when it broke the world 24-hour distance record on Saturday drifted toward Table Mountain with the wind dying down on approach before picking up slightly to whisk the yacht over the finish line at 5.54 am (GMT).

The win gives the team eight points, putting it on top with 14 points accumulated so far in the Volvo Race, which is won by points and not by the fastest overall time.

Brazilian skipper Torben Grael said he was “very glad we are ahead”, telling media “it feels great that the finish wasn’t painful,” comparing it to the last time the race came to Cape Town when the vessel had to wait for 12 hours before making it into port.

“It was a great trip with lots of speed and I am very happy with what we have achieved,” he said.

The crew, which battles harsh conditions in the world’s most prestigious yacht race, living off freeze dried food and dealing with temperatures ranging from -5 to 40 degrees Celsius (23 to 104 Fahrenheit) was relieved to reach dry ground after the first leg.

“It’s been a pretty stressful leg with the competition so close. I am looking forward to a shower, decent food and perhaps a couple of beers,” said crew member David Endean.

“We were in sight of Puma for 75 percent of the race, that raises the intensity a lot,” Endean told AFP.

Ericsson 4, the race favourite, sailed at around 25 knots through a low pressure area with winds of around 30 knots.

Each of the yachts receive points according to their position in each of the 10 legs.

Half points are also awarded at six scoring gates along the route and for the seven ‘in-port’ races.

During each of the last five editions of the event, the winner of the first stage has gone on to win the race.

The crew was joined onshore by a crew member who was injured on board and dropped off in the Cape Verde islands earlier in the leg from Alicante in Spain.

Eight yachts representing seven nations set off on October 11 for the race, one of the most gruelling and hazardous in sport.

Some boats, like the one belonging to Spanish team Telefonica Black which is in last place, suffered damage after crossing stormy seas in recent days.

The race will resume on November 15th with participants departing from Cape Town for Cochin in India for the second stage of the event.

The finish line in the race of 37,000 nautical miles is in St Petersburg, Russia, where the teams are expected in June 2009.