Ericsson unveil yacht for the Volvo Ocean Race

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The Independent Online

As Alex Thomson and Andrew Cape battled their way over the last 350 mile to the finish of the Barcelona two-handed non-stop round the world race, the latest handiwork of designer Juan Kouyoumdjian (the designer behind the winning ABN Amro team in the 2003-04 Volvo Race) was being unveiled in the form of the Ericsson yacht for the Volvo Ocean Race this autumn.

Timed to coincide with the huge jamboree for the world mobile telephone industry, Ericsson, which will have two boats in the Volvo and plans a system of live television coverage of the inshore racing for mobile subscribers, the €5m gleaming new yacht has already cost enough to fund two Barcelona race entries. With all the crew and stopover costs they could afford 10, one more than the original nine which left here last November.

Thomson moves on to another trip round the planet starting this November, this time singlehanded in the Vendee Globe, the race in which one of the co-organisers of the Barcelona event, Ellen MacArthur, made her name in 2000. He has benefited greatly from having the Australian Andrew Cape as his co-skipper - he is expected to resume his ocean racing navigation skills with the American Volvo entry Puma - and has learned that, in performance terms, his boat is very much on the pace. Doubtless, there is a long list of refit jobs to be done.

The pair were expected to finish late this evening which, discounting the 48 hours they had to stay in Wellington for repairs, would be within two or three hours of the winning time of 92days 08hr, 49min, 49sec set on Monday night by the Franco-Irish pairing of Jean-Pierre Dick and Damian Foxall.

In the much warmer climes of Florida, the Olympic trio of Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson laid down the gauntlet in the opening four races of the defence of their world championship title in the Yngling. A record of 1,3, 3, 2 in the tricky conditions of Miami's Biscayne Bay gave them a six-point margin going into yesterday's scheduled pair of races.

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