Sailing: Leaders are given testing time with end in sight

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Only major gear failure stood between a second consecutive winner's trophy and John Kostecki in illbruck last night as the leading trio of yachts in the Volvo Ocean Race were making fast progress up the east coast of Australia.

Kostecki had a 15-mile advantage over Gunnar Krantz in SEB. Both men had cause for relief. The green and white illbruck had been lucky to survive an opening night out of Cape Town when a hatch on the foredeck had been ripped open and the front quarter of the hull had been filled with water.

Krantz needed a repeat of the second-leg comeback he had engineered four years ago when he followed a disappointing first leg with a triumphant second. Although he had to give way to Kostecki this time, the all-Kermit green SEB has lifted not only spirits but his campaign's position overall to equal fourth. That assumed that Grant Dalton was able to hold off the challenge of Knut Frostad, three miles behind him in fifth place, as Jez Fanstone set News Corp up for third place again.

Every kind of obstacle had been thrown at the leading yachts as they battled the final few miles. Dalton had worked his way up from sixth to fourth as he took Amer Sports One into the teeth of a 45-knot headwind, and preparations for a big welcome in Darling Harbour were temporarily halted by a thunderous pyrotechnic display.

VOLVO OCEAN RACE Second leg (Cape Town to Sydney, 6,550 nautical miles): 1 illbruck 110 nautical miles to finish: 2 SEB +15 miles (125 to finish); 3 News Corporation +36 (146); 4 Amer Sports One +99 (209); 5 djuice +102 (212); 6 ASSA ABLOY +131 (241); 7 Amer Sports Too +664 (774). Retired: Tyco.