Bekking clinches Volvo victory in Singapore

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In the black of a tropical night, surrounded on the run-in by the snares of fishing boats and roadblocks of container ships, Spain finally broke the Swedish stranglehold on the Volvo round the world race off Singapore tonight.

There were less than 20 minutes between the first four boats after 1,950 miles of cat and mouse racing from Kochi, but the third leg victory which he had predicted went to Bouwe Bekking at the helm of Telefonica Blue.

The first two legs, from Alicante to Cape Town and on to south-west India, had been won by five times Olympic medallist Torben Grael and a bunch of international heavies on the lavishly funded Ericsson 4.

But Grael had to see Kenny Read take second place in the American entry Puma and was also pipped, by 30 seconds, into fourth place by team-mate Anders Lewander with his combination of grizzly veterans and young bucks on Ericsson 3.

The win pushed Bekking up to second overall, 4.5 points behind Grael, who is still the man to beat in a race which has 24,000 miles over seven legs still to run.

"I have never seen the guys so happy, but it was very tricky over the last 30 miles," said Bekking. "I think this race was always open but this is a very special gift just before Christmas."

"I have never seen anything like that before and, dear Lord, I don't know if I ever want to do anything like it again," said Read, in third place overall just three points behind Bekking.

Particularly jubilant was Lewander, proud to have singed the feathers of what is regarded as Ericsson's number one boat. He is now fourth overall and, perhaps while still ruing the four points lost for using a non-compliant keel on leg one, which would have made them second overall, must feel that crew morale has been restored for the legs to come.

A fifth for Telefonica Black was not enough to dislodge the Irish entered, Chinese-backed, British-skippered Green Dragon from being fifth overall.

It wont be the happiest of Christmases for Ian Walker and crew, but it could have been worse. The beleaguered Team Russia is due to finish today and even Delta Lloyd, last of the eight and limping over the last 200 miles with a broken keel ram, should be safely tied up before Christmas.

Deep in the Pacific sector of the Southern Ocean the leaders in the Vendée Globe solo round the world race were heading to the New Zealand ice gate, which has been shifted north, on their way to Cape Horn.

The 2,000 winner Michel Desjoyeaux holds a healthy lead of over 70 miles as the gap stretches and contracts between himself and Roland Jourdain.

One-time leader Sébastien Josse, skipper of BT from the Ellen MacArthur stable, was over 200 miles in a battle for third with Jean le Cam.

Sam Davies had slightly increased her lead in eighth place to about 100 miles over Marc Guillemot hit by both light airs and slight gear damage as well as seeking to re-establish a racing rhythm after standing by Yann Elies until he was rescued by the Royal Australian Navy with a broken left thigh bone.

Tenth is Brian Thompson, 11th Dee Caffari, 13th Steve White and 14th Jonny Malbon as all five of the remaining British starters - there were seven in Les Sables d'Olonne on 9 November - hold top half positions after gear damage and injury has already put 12 rivals in the abandoned category.