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SAILING

Swedish boat sails to overall victory in Volvo Ocean Race

Ericsson 4 of Sweden won the 2009-2010 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race on Monday, marking the second time a Swedish boat has placed first in the grueling nine-month round-the-world sailing competition.

Swedish boat sails to overall victory in Volvo Ocean Race

The VO70 yacht skippered by Brazilian Torben Grael came in third in the ninth and next-to-last stage between the Swedish port of Marstrand and Sandham near Stockholm, and cannot now be caught in the overall standings.

The short 525-mile leg was won by US entry Puma Ocean Racing, which recorded its first stage victory in the event.

Puma crossed the line at 10.40 pm, just metres ahead of the other Swedish entry, Ericsson 3, after a thrilling finish. Ericsson 4 arrived about 15 minutes later.

It was the second time a Swedish yacht has won the event after EF Language in the 1997-98 edition.

Ericsson 4, the favorite before the event began in the Spanish Mediterranean port of Alicante in October, has won five of the nine stages held so far.

There still remains an in-port race in Stockholm on Sunday and the 10th and final stage between the Swedish capital and St Petersburg in Russia, where the yachts are expected on June 27 at the end of the 37,000-mile event.

But only a maximum of 12 points remain to be won for any one boat, and Ericsson 4 has an unassailable 13-point lead.

The Ericsson team was by far the best prepared for the event, with a budget of €80 million ($110 million) for the two boats — Ericsson 4 and Ericsson 3.

The two Spanish yachts, Telefonica Blue and Telefonica Black, were expected to be its main rivals before the start, but both were hit by bad luck.

Grael, 48, a double Olympic champion and America’s Cup specialist, has won his first ever ocean race. He finished third in the last Volvo race in 2005-06 in charge of the yacht Brazil 1.

Puma’s win reinforced its claim to second place in the event. Its main rival for the spot, Telefonica Blue, skippered by Dutch veteran Bouwe Bekking, hit a rock as the yachts left Marstrand was undergoing repairs Monday prior to restarting the leg on Wednesday or Thursday.

The Volvo race, known as the “Everest of sailing”, started out in 1973 as the Whitbread race.

The 10th edition of the race involving the single-hull 70-foot (21.3-metre) yachts this time was longer and more arduous than ever, taking in Southeast Asia for the first time.

Eight teams started the event, but only seven are remaining after Team Russia withdrew.

The teams received points according to their position in each leg. Half points were awarded for the positions in the in-port races.

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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.