Volvo fleet split by differing tactics

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The first split in tactics on leg one of the Volvo round the world race from Alicante to Cape Town and the first breakdown have seen an opening 48 hours that freed the eight 70-foot yachts from the Mediterranean, through the Straits of Gibraltar and out into the Atlantic.

The British-skippered, Chinese-backed Irish entry Green Dragon was heading towards the African coast in fifth place but only eight miles astern of the leader, Torben Grael, in Ericsson 4.

Ian Walker's advisers have been the French ocean racing weather expert Jean-Yves Bernot and his navigator Ian Moore, but Bernot had also been helping Team Russia, skippered by the Austrian Andreas Hanakamp, and the Rob Humphreys-designed, Lymington-built boat, although sixth with a deficit of 19 miles, has voted with the majority in heading west.

Neck and neck in second were the American boat Puma, with Ken Read at the helm, and one of the two Spanish team boats, Fernando Echavarri's Telefonica Black.

In fourth was Anders Lewander in Ericsson 3, carrying a further three-point penalty for a non-compliant keel fin and which had led the fleet at times in the first 36 hours.

Having to catch up the rest was one of the joint favourites, Telefonica Blue. What skipper Bouwe Bekking did in a former life to deserve yet another dose of Volvo misfortune - he was badly damaged on the first night last time in 2005-06 and the boat was lost on the transatlantic leg - is unknown.

He suffered rudder damage on the first night and had to pull into Algeciras to make the repair. That incurred a minimum stop of 12 hours, but his shore crew was able to rush south and complete the work within the minimum time.

Ahead of him is Ger O'Rourke's Dutch-backed Delta Lloyd, which, as ABN Amro 1 won the race last time, but this time 48 miles astern in just 48 hours.