Sailing: Fairy-tale ending for buoyant Sanderson

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The Independent Online

In a fairy-tale ending, a jubilant Mike Sanderson duly guided ABN Amro 1 to victory in leg one of the Volvo Race from Vigo to Cape Town yesterday.

Under a cloudless sky and bathed in sunshine , a crew that had worked so hard was given a royal welcome from a city also known as the tavern of the seas.

Sanderson was in buoyant mood. "We always loved the boat. It's our baby," he said. "It's going so fast you have to find a window of weather 500 miles long. Our designer Juan Kouyoumdjian told us we would average 15 knots and we laughed. We have averaged 14.95 knots. But it was high stress and you will see a lot more relieved faces as the others finish." As for the future, as rivals scurry to the boatsheds to make repairs and modifications, Sanderson said: "Our boat's already beefed up. We know we are competitive. I wouldn't swap our boat for anything."

His only problem is that watch leader and key helmsman Mark Christensen, who started with two bone fractures in his right forearm, has not improved. He goes for X-rays today and expects to be put in a cast.

The official average of just over 14 knots for the notional 6,400 miles ignored an extra 1,000 put in skirting the South Atlantic high pressure zone and contained a new world record of 546 miles in 24 hours. The elapsed time for the leg was 19 days 24min 02sec.

The second ABN boat, skippered by Sébastien Josse and crewed by under-30s who had applied from all over the world, also beat the record by seven miles and Josse was diplomatically several hours behind his senior partner, but the same distance ahead of third-placed Torben Grael in Brasil 1.

All three crews of 10, including the one woman taking part in the race, Adrienne Cahalan, Grael's navigator, could look forward to breakfast under Table Mountain and a sleep in clean sheets for the first time in nearly three weeks.

That leaves Britain's Neal McDonald to nurse the Swedish entry, Ericsson, over the last 400 miles after having another scare with an out-of-control keel when he had to make a course change.

He should finish tomorrow and join the major surgery ward which includes Bouwe Bekking's movistar and Paul Cayard's Pirates of the Caribbean team.