Sailing: Sydney claims its place

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THE SYDNEY to Hobart Race, which claimed six lives, including the British Olympic yachtsman Glyn Charles, when the fleet was battered by 80mph winds last December, will form part of the third leg of the Volvo Ocean Race in 2001-02.

The race's chief executive, Helge Alten, will announce today that the 630-mile classic is being included to enhance the spectacle as the sponsors, Volvo, makes further changes to the event it bought from Whitbread.

Sydney will also provide the second stopover in the race, which starts at the end of September 2001 in Southampton. Fremantle, in Western Australia, has been dropped and there was disappointment in Melbourne, which had mounted a concerted campaign to be the only Australian port of call, hoping to add ocean racing's premier event to the Formula One grand prix it already hosts.

The first stopover will again be Cape Town, and the inclusion of the Sydney-Hobart Race will mean a high-profile restart after the second leg in front of huge crowds. However, the run to Tasmania will only form part of the third leg to Auckland. The yachts must stop for a minimum of three hours for a "pit stop" to make any running repairs before re-crossing the finish line in the Derwent River to race another 1,800 miles up the Tasman Sea.

The United States stopovers have already been confirmed as Miami, which replaces Fort Lauderdale, and, for the second time, Baltimore. After Auckland and rounding Cape Horn, the halt in South America will be Rio De Janeiro, which replaces Sao Sebastio in Brazil. From Baltimore the yachts re-cross the Atlantic to La Rochelle, considered highly successful in 1997-78, but will then by-pass Britain, no longer hosting the finish, to the final two stops in Gothenburg, Volvo's home port in Sweden, and Kiel in Germany.

In the America's Cup, the British bid for the event at the end of this year is expected to be wound up today while Luc Gelluseau, in charge of the French challenge, admitted that even to make the semi-finals of the Louis Vuitton Cup would fulfil their targets. With a relatively modest budget of pounds 5.5m and only one boat, he feels they cannot compete with the better-funded of the other nine challenging syndicates.

Speaking at the Multiplast factory where the French hull is being built in Vannes for the Sixth Sense syndicate, Gelluseau said no budget was available for significant improvements to the boat, which will be launched on 18 June.

Marc Pajot, who will line up for Europe on Saturday against Pierre Mas in the opening foray for the Adecco Maxi World Championship in Cadiz, has run into money problems with the Swiss Fast 2000 syndicate. Their challenge is on hold as vital funding has fallen through.