Volvo race hit by gale force winds

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The Independent Online

Out in the Atlantic the seven boats racing the seventh leg of the Volvo round the world race from Boston to Galway are being hit by baseball bat gusts of up to gale force, the boats are being skittled as they career down the piled up waves and they are having to make emergency repairs.

Ian Walker's Green Dragon has daggerboard damage, as has Magnus Olsson's Ericsson 3 after hitting a whale which also damaged the keel housing.

Fernando Echavarri on Spain's Telefonica Black found a big turtle trapped under the hull, stopped the boat, backed it down and freed the relieved animal, but his team-mates on Bouwe Bekking's Telefonica Blue have also had to replace a daggerboard while Kenny Read on the American entry Puma had to remove a damaged rudder and fit the emergency replacement.

While the Atlantic has lived up to its harum scarum reputation, the party is already in full swing at one of the race's most lively destinations, helped by the fact that all have gathered behind the flag of Leinster as they bid for Europe's Heineken Cup rugby championship against Leicester.

Should there be an Irish victory on Saturday afternoon the celebrations may well last long enough into the night to see the Volvo winner come into the specially organised reception dock and all seven are expected to finish the extended 2,600-mile leg within two hours of each other.

Walker was lying fifth going into the last 500 miles, enough time for others to suffer damage or find themselves in a less beneficial final runway.