Sweden's Ericsson 4 yacht won the 10th edition of the Volvo Ocean Race, considered as one of the world's most gruelling sport events, one stage before arrival.
AFP - Sweden's Ericsson 4 Tuesday celebrated its victory in the 2009-2010 edition of the Volvo around-the-world yacht race, a nine-month event that is one of the most grueling in the world of sport.
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 Sandhamn, an island 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 came in at 10:40 pm (2040 GMT) Monday, snatching victory on the finish line from the other Swedish entry, Ericsson 3, desperate for a win in front of its home crowd. Ericsson 4 arrived about 15 minutes later.
"We made a few errors on the leg, but we got what we wanted so we're pretty happy," said Grael. "We were very close in Marstrand, but now it's done. It's finished. We can really enjoy it.
"We are finishing Ericsson 4's circumnavigation. The boat was built here and left here nearly a year ago, so she’s back after sailing around the world and winning the race. It couldn't be any better."
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 euros for its two boats.
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, was grounded on a rock after the yachts left Marstrand on Sunday and was undergoing repairs prior to restarting the leg on Wednesday or Thursday.
"We feel a little sad to spoil Ericsson 3's homecoming, but it's a great win, and a hard-earned win," said Puma's American skipper Ken Read.
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 remain after Team Russia withdrew in December due to insufficient funding.
The teams receive points according to their position in each leg. Half points are awarded for the positions in the in-port races.
Ninth stage from from Marstrand to Stockholm (525 miles):
1. Puma Ocean Racing 8.0 points
2. Ericsson 3 7.0
3. Ericsson 4 6.0
5. Telefonica Black 5.0
4. Green Dragon 4.0
6. Delta Lloyd 3.0
7. Telefonica Blue 2.0 (to be confirmed after arrival)
1. Ericsson 4 (SWE)/Torben Grael (BRA) 108.0 points (winner)
2. Puma Ocean Racing (USA)/Ken Read (USA) 95.0
3. Telefonica Blue (ESP)/Bouwe Bekking (NED) 88.0 (to be confirmed)
4. Ericsson 3 (SWE)/Magnus Olsson (SWE) 71.5
5. Green Dragon (CHN/EIR)/Ian Walker (GBR) 63.0
6. Telefonica Black (ESP)/Fernando Echavarri (ESP) 47.0
7. Delta Lloyd (NED)/Roberto Bermudez (ESP) 38.0
8. Team Russia (RUS)/Andreas Hanakamp (AUT) 10.5 (withdrawn)
Date created : 2009-06-16