Volvo Round the World race 2014: Dongfeng twice recovers from major damage to challenge Ian Walker's Abu Dhabi

Walker holds a near-three-mile lead over Chinese entry Dongfeng

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The Independent Online

Speeding towards the finish line in Cape Town, a win was in sight on Wednesday for Britain’s Ian Walker and the crew of Abu Dhabi on the opening leg of the Volvo round the world race. But he was still under pressure from the French-skippered Chinese entry Dongfeng, which has twice had to recover from major damage, including replacing a smashed rudder, and, with less than 90 miles to go, Walker was only about three miles ahead and Dongfeng making slightly better speed at the end of the 24 night since the start in Alicante.

Bouwe Bekking’s Brunel, for so long in contention, was holding what appeared to be a secure third place, 70 miles behind Walker but 100 miles ahead of fourth-placed Chris Nicholson in the Danish-flagged Vestas Wind with the final three, the Turkish-American Alvimedica, Spain’s Mapfre, and the all-woman crew aboard Sweden’s SCA between 375 and 530 miles astern.

One of Britain’s brightest gold medal hopes at the Rio Olympic Games, Giles Scott, has joined Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup challenge team, BAR. Scott is the current world champion in the same Finn singlehanded class in which Ainslie won three consecutive Olympic golds, the last at London 2012, to add to the silver and gold he won in 1996 and 2000 in the lighter Laser singlehanded dinghy.

Scott, who joins Paul Campbell-James as Paul Goodison has switched to Sweden’s Artemis Challenge, dominates the Finn class in the way Ainslie did before him.

BAR is hoping to announce on 25 November that it will host in Portsmouth an America’s Cup World Series regatta but the first to announce is expected to be Bermuda today. As for the venue of America’s Cup 35, finals bids are in from both Bermuda and San Diego with the announcement expected the first week in December. Defending skipper Jimmy Spithill has been voted the Rolex yachtsman of the year by the sport’s governing body, the International Sailing Federation.

In the mid-Atlantic, calmer conditions are making for fast progress for the Route du Rhum singlehanders racing from St. Malo to Guadeloupe. The first 30 hours were as tough as predicted with 11 having to abandon for various reasons. Loick Peyron in the 105-foot Banque Populaire continues to set the pace, extending to over 90 miles ahead of the giant, 130-foot Spindrift 2, which has proved quite a handful for skipper Yan Guichard.

The 75-year old Sir Robin Knox-Johnston has eased his 60-foot Grey Power up to 7 of the remaining 18 of the 20 starters in open class, while the two other British competitors of the remaining 80 from 91 starters, Miranda Merron’s Campagne de France and Conrad Humphrey’s Cat Phones, which stopped to make repairs, are ninth and 20 in the Class 40.  

11 Route du Rhum abandonments:

1. Thomas Coville (Ultime - Sodebo Ultim') : collision with cargo ship
2. Bertrand de Broc (IMOCA - Votre Nom autour du Monde) : elbow injury and pilot damage
3. Alain Delhumeau (Multi50 - Royan) : dismasted
4. Loic Fequet (Multi50 - Maitre Jacques) : float damaged
5. Erik Nigon (Mulit50 - Un monde sans sida) : mainsail shredded
6. Gilles Buekenhout (Multi50 - Nootka Architectes de l'urgence) : rudder broken
7. Francois Angoulvant (Class40 - Team Sabrosa SR 40MK2) : lost keel
8. Marc Lepesqueux (Class40 - Sensation Class40) : lost keel
9. Nicolas Troussel (Class40 - Credit Mutuel de Bretagne) : injury
10. Thierry Bouchard (Class40 - : injury
11. Arnaud Boissières (Class40 - Du Rhum au Globe) : technical problem