A triumphant Telefonica Blue, in the face of the most testing of conditions, won leg four of the Volvo round the world race from Singapare to Qingdao, China yesterday. Despite a broken boom, the American entry, Puma, held on to second place with the overall race leader, Sweden's Ericsson 4, taking third.
But a 2,500-mile course that has taken a severe toll on the seven remaining boats and threatens to extend its damage to the fifth, and longest ever, 12,000-mile fifth leg to Rio de Janeiro.
Both Ericsson 3 and the Dutch boat Delta Lloyd are holed up in Taiwan for repairs while it is possible that the second Spanish boat, Telefonica Black, may have to be shipped to Rio to have extensive repairs to the bow and hull.
Telefonica Blue skipper Bouwe Bekking, who has been suffering from an injured back, said: "It was the hardest leg of the Volvo ever. It is just great to be here in one piece. We'll be ready for the inshore race on 7 January. We nursed the boat in the storm conditions, but it was the craziest sailing I have done."
The only remaining boat on the course, the Irish and Chinese-backed Green Dragon, should be in what is almost its second home port of Qingdao tomorrow where a new carbon fibre ring-frame is waiting to be fitted. The mast will also be removed for inspection after the forestay broke. But skipper Ian Walker is confident they, too, will be ready for the inshore race.
Click below to listen to Stuart Alexander talk to Green Dragon skipper Ian Walker by satellite phone.