Sailing: MacArthur misses out by minutes

Volvo Ocean Race: Record-breaking yachtswoman narrowly beaten in head-to-head fight

Shortly before midnight, the 2003 winner, Jean-Pierre Dick, in this race partnered by the highly experienced Loïck Peyron, crossed the finish line in a new record time of 13 days, 9 hours, 19 minutes and 2 seconds. Just over one-tenth of one per cent was the time difference that cost MacArthur and Jourdain the win. The 35 minutes between them and the winners was a smaller gap than that often recorded between first and last in a Saturday-afternoon boat race on the Solent.

MacArthur, clearly buoyed by a return from record-breaking to racing, had thrown everything into a late dash to overhaul Dick. But "we really struggled after the Equator,'' she said. "We're pretty happy, after sailing a hard race, to be in, but frustrated to be second.'' As was Mike Golding who, with Dominique Wavre, never fully recovered from gear damage and finished fourth behind Jean le Cam and Kito de Pavant. Brian Thompson and Will Oxley were fifth.

With only a week of the opening offshore leg of the Volvo Race completed, the leaders are more than a third of the way along the 6,400-mile stretch from Vigo, north-west Spain, to Cape Town. Two of the seven starters have retired hurt, while a third, Brunel Sunergy of Australia, has had to stop for repairs and is nearly 1,000 miles behind, but Mike Sanderson, despite gear damage, a fire, and crew injuries in ABN Amro I, has been setting a cracking pace.

Although his speed was dropping yesterday in the lighter wind which heralded the Doldrums, a double Dutch hit was in evidence as ABN II, with a crew largely made up of young applicants from all over the world, was second, 66 miles behind and following in his wake.

This has kept the third-placed Brasil I, with a deficit of 80 miles on Sanderson, on their toes, but a further nine miles behind, Britain's Neal McDonald, skipper of Sweden's Ericsson, had a very talented crew scratching collective heads about how they could improve on fourth.

With collision damage blamed by Spain's Bouwe Bekking for the retirement of movistar and "the roughest conditions I have seen in eight years'' - he won the race in 1997-98 - contributing similarly to the retirement of Paul Cayard's Pirates of the Caribbean, structural engineers are still crawling over both boats as repairs are made in Portugal.

Cayard has already decided to ship his yacht to Cape Town for full trials ahead of the second leg to Melbourne. Bekking looks increasingly likely to do so.

Replay 1973: The original adventurers

Adventure was the name of a 55-foot sloop owned by Britain's Royal Navy, and adventure was the overriding spirit of all the 19 yachts (the smallest was just 32 feet long) which set off in pioneer spirit for the inaugural Whitbread Round The World Race in 1973.

Cooked up by Admiral Otto Steiner of the Royal Naval Sailing Association with the backing - taken out of the budget to give pub landlords a taste of new products - of the brewing family, it went to Cape Town, Sydney and Rio de Janeiro. There was fresh food to eat, people to cook it, comfortable bunks to sleep in, and the 324 men and women who took part at some stage could hardly have foreseen the ruthlessly professional Volvo Ocean Race they were spawning.

It was a pursuit race, with the total elapsed time deciding the winner - a broad-smiling Mexican businessman. Three people lost their lives, though, and there were numerous stories of capsize, damage and injury. There was no satellite navigation, communication was haphazard to non-existent and, for the 14 crews completing the course, there was a huge sense of achievement.

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