Sailing: McDonald overcomes injuries to grab victory

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The Independent Online

Dawn broke on a deeply satisfying win for Neal McDonald at the end of the third leg of the Volvo Ocean race yesterday. Despite injuries effectively reducing his 12-man crew to nine, it capped a double return to contention after two poor results for the blue and gold Assa Abloy.

It also broke the winning streak of the overall leader John Kostecki, beaten also by Kevin Shoebridge in a thrilling finish for Tyco, and pushes Assa up to fourth overall. McDonald had been "on fire" after beating not only every other Volvo 60, but the whole fleet on the opening Sydney to Hobart section of a 2,050-mile leg which has taken the fleet halfway round the world, but accounts for only 33 per cent of the total points on offer.

He hung on during the 200-mile run to the finish down the coast of New Zealand from North Cape as the second-placed Grant Dalton closed the gap to 16 miles in an Amer Sports One carrying the syndicate boss Leonardo Ferragamo.

Kostecki, Shoebridge and Jez Fanstone in News Corp battled all the way to the end. It was a hot finish inside Waitemata Harbour that saw Shoebridge pass the two boats with the margin between the three boats just six minutes and 15 seconds. However, Knut Frostad in djuice was left to rationalise another poor performance while McDonald will have to wait nearly 72 hours to greet wife Lisa skippering the tail-end all-woman team on Amer Sports Too.

McDonald said that being first into Hobart had been a huge psychological advantage and added: "We are also more used to the boat and to each other. It all went very smoothly."

At the London Boat Show, Ellen MacArthur was both performing the opening ceremonies and celebrating a five-year extension to her sponsorship partnership with retail group Kingfisher. It was the boat bearing that name which took her to second place and worldwide fame in the Vendée Globe nearly a year ago.

She will continue with her beloved Open 60, but has no plans to try again for one place better at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Instead, having won umpteen awards and completing a book of her life, she will be concentrating more on multihull racing.

Although some details of the new contract are vague – no overall budget, no information on how other partners may be added – this year sees MacArthur taking the blue and yellow-hulled 60 across the Atlantic again in the Route du Rhum, which starts from St Malo in November. She then moves into a chartered 110-foot catamaran for an attempt on the Jules Verne Trophy for the fastest circumnavigation of the world.

VOLVO OCEAN RACE Overall positions after 2,050 mile third leg from Sydney to Auckland (Provisional): 1 illbruck (J Kostecki) 21pts; 2 Amer Sports One (G Dalton) 18; 3 News Corp (J Fanstone) 16; 4 Assa Abloy (N McDonald) 15; 5 Tyco (K Shoebridge) 12; 6 SEB (G Krantz) 11; 7 djuice (K Frostad) 10; 8 Amer Sports Too (L McDonald) 5.

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