Ericsson 4 and Puma battle it out at start of fourth leg

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Neck and neck, the American entry Puma, skippered by Kenny Read, and race leader Ericsson 4, with five-times Olympic medallist Torben Grael, were again locked in the tightest of tussles as the remaining seven yachts in the Volvo round the world race set off on the fourth leg from Singapore to Qingdao, China.

Conditions at the start were benign, and expected to remain so for the first half of a course expected to take about 12 days, but the second half could be a severe test as temperatures drop below freezing and gale force winds sweep down from the north.

Speeding his way up the Atlantic, Michel Desjoyeaux was passing through the 3,500 miles to the finish marker on the70th day of the Vendée Globe solo round the world race. He is on course to knock two to four days off the record of 87d 10hr 47min he set when winning in 2000-01 and has increased his lead to 450 miles over second-placed Roland Jourdain.

Briton's Sam Davies is a solid fourth, 1,800 miles behind, with Brian Thompson sixth 1,300 miles behind Davies and Dee Caffari eighth, a further 100 miles astern. Steve White is ninth.

Volvo Race standings after 4 legs:

1, Ericsson 4 (Torben Grael) 39 pts; 2, Telefonica Blue (Bouwe Bekking) 33.5; 3, Puma (Kenny Read) 31; 4, Ericsson 3 (Magnus Olsson) 24 ; 5, Green Dragon (Ian Walker) 22.5; 6, Telefonica Black (Fernando Echevarri) 19 ; 7, Delta Lloyd (Roberto Bermudez) 10. Team

Russia has withdrawn, but carries forward 10 pts.