Kosatka hit by economic woes

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Crisis talks were underway today, but the prospects of leaving Singapore on the fourth leg of the Volvo round the world race to Qingdao, China, next month looked bleak for the Russian entry, Kosatka.

Stock market crashes and bank lending restrictions have not by-passed Russia and the Team Russia boss, supermarket owner Oleg Zherebtsov flew from his native St. Petersburg knowing that his room for manoeuvre was very restricted.

It was a bleak Christmas outlook for both the racing and shore crews after having had to play catch-up with a boat designed by Rob Humphreys and built by Bill Green in Lymington but which hit the water late ahead of the start from Alicante last October.

Even then, Zherebtsov was prevented from taking part in the first leg to Cape Town after his mother unexpectedly died, but he made the second to Kochi, south-west India, only to fly home and sit out the third to try and save the project.

It is possible that the boat will be sailed back to Europe in the hope that further finance may be found, not least for it to do the final legs to the race finish port of St. Petersburg, which is the yacht's and Zherebtsov's home.

The Volvo race organisation is believed to have offered to help in any way it can, short of outright funding.

Team Russia's last hurrah was to push the Irish entry Green Dragon all the way to the third leg finish in Singapore, but they could not dislodge the Chinese-backed entry skippered by Britain's double Olympic silver medallist Ian Walker.

Walker, a bit red-faced after the boat steamed into the arrival pontoon, said he hoped to make some performance-enhancing modifications during what is a longish stop for the first time in the race's history in Singapore.

"I'm competitive and I want to win and if I am not winning I get frustrated," said Walker, hinting at more crew rotations for the next leg to Qingdao in China.

"I arrived in India feeling gutted because we lost two or three places towards the end but this leg I feel we sailed very, very well, so I am quite pleased." He pointed again, however, to being worried about racing upwind again. "The next leg we will be bashing upwind for two weeks and it isn't going to be easy," he added.

That leaves just Delta Lloyd to complete the 1,950-mile leg, probably local breakfast time tomorrow morning, coping with a broken port side keel ram.

With Marc Guillemot saying he was feeling very tired after stopping to aid the rescue of fellow Vendee Globe competitor Yann Elies and one-time leader Jean-Pierre Dick expressing renewed fears about the state of his rudder repair, the attritional grind in the solo round the world race continued.

Still with the bit between his teeth is leader Michel Desjoyeaux with only second-placed Roland Jourdain seemingly able to make any impression.

Dick is nearly 1,000 miles behind in seventh and the gap then jumps to 1,500 for eighth-placed Sam Davies.

Twelve of the original 30 have now abandoned and no-one, with the leaders still facing another 11,000 miles, would be surprised at a 50 per cent, even 60 per cent. wastage rate by the time the race finishes in Les Sables d'Olonne in early February.