Telefonica Black retires from brutal fourth leg

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The Independent Online

The Spanish entry Telefonica Black yesterday became the first of the seven remaining boats in the Volvo round the world race to retire from what is turning into a brutal fourth leg from Singapore to Qingdao, China.

A crack between the hull and the deck is the main cause of concern. "The most important thing for this team is the safety of the crew," said Telefonica's racing team ceo, Pedro Campos.

After many hours at anchor in Salomague Bay, the assault on the final 1,000 of the 2,500-mile leg, was back on for the Irish-backed entry, Green Dragon, after patching up some structural damage following the failure of the forestay, and the Dutch boat Delta Lloyd.

The American entry Puma has continued sailing north after patching a broken boom as the new leader, with 800 miles to the finish, Telefonica Blue was holding a 70-mile lead over Ericsson 3 and 100 ahead of the overall race leader, Ericsson 4. T Blue skipper Bouwe Bekking, confined to his bunk with a back injury, said: "I still make inputs and give advice, the most important being 'keep it one piece."

For the remaining dozen of the 30 starters in the Vendée Globe solo round the world race, life is much more pleasant and the leader, going into his 78th day, Michel Desjoyeaux, could look forward to finishing this weekend and knocking up to three days off his own record when winning for the first time in 2000-01.

Samantha Davies is fifth, Brian Thompson sixth and Dee Caffari seventh, with the fourth remaining British competitor Steve White, bowling along in ninth.