Green Dragon suffer blow in Volvo race

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The game of two halves which is the fourth leg of the Volvo round the world race turned into a survival game for the crew of Green Dragon today. Without warning, the forestay which holds up the mast and carries the headsails broke.

Quick reactions meant that a dismasting was avoided and makeshift cables were rigged to give support. But it means that the Irish-backed entry, racing to its joint home port in the Olympic sailing city of Qingdao, will be severely hampered.

There are 1,500 miles to go and British skipper Ian Walker said: "This is a bitter disappointment. I have no idea why it should break now. The important thing is that nobody was hurt. We will keep sailing as fast as we can without jeopardising the rig."

All of the boats move into more rugged territory this weekend as the fleet of seven negotiates first the obstacle which is Taiwan and then braces itself for the upwind battle with vicious seas and freezing gales.

Click below to listen to Stuart Alexander talk to Ian Walker

The early half out of Singapore has been in relatively flat seas and warm temperatures, but the remaining miles could see yet another shuffle which has so far dumped the two Ericsson boats, into fifth and seventh places.
Both chose a more easterly route up and through the jagged reefs and rocks of the Spratley Islands on their way to the turning mark of the South Rock Light as current leader Kenny Read played the middle of the course and prospered in the American entry Puma.

He was chased by the Spanish pair, Telefonica Blue and Black, while Walker's Green Dragon had been hanging on to fourth place, but he will now be severely hampered.

Meanwhile, with less than 3,000 miles to the finish in Les Sables d'Olonne, Michel Desjoyeaux has shrugged off an undisclosed threat caused by earlier damage to his yacht, Foncia, and is charging towards his second win in the Vendée Globe solo round the world race.

He is comfortably clear of second-placed Roland Jourdain who has struggled to shake free of the Doldrums. In third place, Armel le Cléac'h should be comfortable, but fourth-placed Marc Guillemot has declared an intention to take his podium place away, even though he is 800 miles further behind.

Le Cléac'h has 11 hours in hand because of redress, but Guillemot has 82 for standing by Yann Elies before he was rescued by the Australian Navy having broken a leg.

Sam Davies, also the recipient of 32 hours of redress after being diverted in the Elies rescue, is now fifth (the dismasted Vincent Riou will be joint third whatever happens after rescuing Jean le Cam) and Dee Caffari is only just behind sixth-placed Brian Thompson but is involved in major sail repairs.

She is cutting two 6m x 4m panels out of a spinnaker to use as patches on her distressed mainsail but is well clear of the fourth Briton, Steve White in what is almost a triumphant ninth.

Click here to read Ian Walker's exclusive diary