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June 20, 2018

Chinese boat stretches lead in Volvo Ocean Race

ALICANTE, Spain (AP) — Dongfeng Race Team stretched its lead at the head of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet in the third leg to China on Sunday.

Charles Caudrelier’s crew are aiming to become the first Chinese boat to win a leg in offshore sailing’s leading round-the-world race, which was first held in 1973.

There would be no better place to do it than Sanya, their home port on the southern tip of China, which is the destination of the 4,670-nautical mile leg three that began in Abu Dhabi on Jan. 3 and is likely to be completed around Jan. 24.

On Sunday, after nine days of sailing, they had increased their lead of just under 12 miles over closest challengers, Team Brunel of the Netherlands.

The boats were locked at the top of the standings before the start of the leg on four points with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.

The fleet still has just under 3,000 nautical miles to sail, including a hazardous stretch through the Malacca Strait, which is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and separates the Indonesian island of Sumatra from Malaysia.

The racing boats will need to dodge slow-moving fishing vessels and all kinds of debris in the much-polluted waters.

Meanwhile, Team Vestas Wind, the Danish boat that was grounded during leg two from Cape Town and Abu Dhabi on Nov. 29, was heading for Italy for a rebuild.

The target is to return the badly damaged vessel to the race for the final two legs from Lisbon in June.

The 38,739 nautical mile, nine-month race is held every three years and visits 11 ports around the world and every continent.

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Chinese boat stretches lead in Volvo Ocean Race

Comanche, Wild Oats XI in Sydney to Hobart duel

HOBART, Australia (AP) — Seven-time champion Wild Oats XI and American super maxi Comanche continued their Sydney to Hobart duel on Saturday, 24 hours into the annual ocean race to the island state of Tasmania.

Comanche, which was launched in October and is being tested in race conditions for the first time, led defending champion Wild Oats XI for much of the race since its start Friday in Sydney Harbour.

But by early afternoon Saturday, Wild Oats opened up a three-nautical-mile lead over the American boat, with both yachts completing about 250 nautical miles of the 628-nautical-mile race.

Ragamuffin, another super maxi and skippered by 87-year-old Syd Fischer, was in a distant third place, about 40 nautical miles behind the leaders. Another American entry, super maxi Rio 100, was fourth.

Perpetual Loyal was earlier sitting in fourth place before being forced to retire due to a damaged hull — the first of the five super maxis in the race to retire and one of eight yachts to pull out following a rough first night at sea.

Perpetual Loyal skipper Anthony Bell decided to withdraw early Saturday after the boat started taking on water while off Eden on the New South Wales state south coast.

The boat, which includes professional surfer Sally Fitzgibbons, former world champion boxer Danny Green and Olympic sailor Tom Slingsby among its crew, returned to its home club at Sydney’s Rose Bay.

“We’re not exactly sure how it happened,” Slingsby said. “We were coming off some big waves but we also could have hit something during the night when we were falling off these waves.”

Brindabella, the 1997 champion, also retired from the original 117-yacht fleet with rudder problems.

Wild Oats XI set the race record of 1 day, 18 hours, 23 minutes, 12 seconds in 2012, a mark that will likely stand this year.

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Comanche, Wild Oats XI in Sydney to Hobart duel

Team Brunel holds Volvo Ocean Race 2nd-leg lead

ALICANTE, Spain (AP) — Three teams have held the Volvo Ocean Race second leg lead within the last 24 hours as the fleet sped toward the stage’s conclusion in Abu Dhabi.

Dutch team Team Brunel, led by 51-year-old Bouwe Bekking, held a slim advantage by 0940 GMT on Sunday on the 5,200-nautical mile leg between Cape Town and the Emirates. Bekking is contesting the race for a record-equaling seventh time, after first competing in 1985-86. He has never won it.

They led by just three nautical miles from Chinese entry Dongfeng Race Team with first leg winner Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, two nautical miles further adrift. The three boats have swapped the lead through the weekend.

Only six boats are contesting the second of nine stages in the nine-month global offshore race after Danish entry Team Vestas Wind was forced to pull out at the start of the week when its boat was grounded on a reef in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

The nine-man crew escaped their disintegrating vessel to reach a tiny island, Íle du Sud, which is part of the St. Brandon archipelago and surrounded by sharks. They remained there for two days until a small fishing boat took them to Mauritius on Wednesday.

The fleet is expected to start arriving in port in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

Latest placings: 1 Team Brunel (Netherlands), 2 Dongfeng Race Team (China), 3 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, 4 MAPFRE (Spain), 5 Team Alvimedica (Turkey/U.S.), 6 Team SCA (Sweden).

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Team Brunel holds Volvo Ocean Race 2nd-leg lead

Loick Peyron wins Route du Rhum in record time

POINTE-A-PITRE, Guadeloupe (AP) — French sailor Loick Peyron won the Route du Rhum trans-Atlantic race in record time, crossing the finish line Monday more than two hours faster than the previous mark.

Ninety-one boats set off on Nov. 2 on a 3,542-nautical mile (6,560-kilometer) course between the French port city of Saint-Malo and the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe.

Peyron’s time of 7 days, 15 hours, 8 minutes, 32 seconds aboard Banque Populaire VII eclipsed countryman Lionel Lemonchois’ time of 7 days, 17 hours, 19 minutes, 6 seconds, which was set in 2006.

“I was not supposed to be on this boat two months ago. I was supposed to do the Rhum race on a very small yellow trimaran which will be the case in four years’ time,” Peyron said. “But it is not a surprise because I knew that the boat was able to do it.”

The 54-year-old Peyron’s previous best finish was fifth. He abandoned the race three times.

Peyron was also skipper of the 14-man Banque Populaire crew, which holds the Jules Verne Trophy.

Countryman Thomas Coville, the winner in 1998, was among the favorites but damaged his yacht in a collision with a cargo ship on the first night.

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Loick Peyron wins Route du Rhum in record time

Marquez 2nd in Japan to claim MotoGP championship

MOTEGI, Japan (AP) — Honda rider Marc Marquez of Spain defended his MotoGP championship on Sunday when he finished second in the Grand Prix of Japan behind compatriot Jorge Lorenzo.

Marquez crossed the line 1.638 seconds behind Lorenzo to collect the crucial points for the world championship win. Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi of Italy completed the podium in third place.

Yamaha rider Lorenzo took his second successive victory with a time of 42 minutes, 21.259 seconds over 24 laps at the 4.801-kilometer (2.983 mile) Honda-owned Motegi circuit.

With three races left in the season, Marquez has 312 points, 82 points ahead of Rossi and Dani Pedrosa. Riders are awarded 25 points for a win.

Having started fourth on the grid, Marquez passed Rossi midway through the race then made an attempt to catch Lorenzo, but the Yamaha rider held his lead and Marquez settled for second.

At 21, Marquez is the youngest rider to take consecutive premier world titles.

“The race doesn’t really matter today,” Marquez said. “Maybe I wasn’t riding like always, as I felt a little different. It was hard to overtake and I didn’t want to make any mistakes.”

“We got the title and it’s incredible to take it at home. Thanks to my family and Honda.”

The next race is at Phillip Island, Australia on Oct. 19.

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Marquez 2nd in Japan to claim MotoGP championship