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Sailing-Chinese take early Volvo Ocean Race lead

October 19, 2014

ALICANTE, Spain (AP) — China’s Dongfeng Race Team have taken a surprise lead in the Volvo Ocean Race and even a broken rudder has not halted their push toward a first-leg victory in South Africa.

China has no tradition of success in offshore racing, let alone the sport’s leading professional crewed event, but under the helmsmanship of French skipper Charles Caudrelier they had established a 45 nautical mile lead over their nearest rivals by 0900 GMT on Sunday.

The seven-strong fleet completed a week of the expected three weeks it will take to cover the 6,487 nautical miles between start port Alicante on Spain’s Costa Blanca and Cape Town.

On Saturday morning, the Chinese team were rocked by a “violent impact” when an unidentified object in the mid-Atlantic smashed into their rudder and broke it.

It took the crew two hours to replace the rudder but despite the hold-up they had regained the lead by the end of the day and smart navigational moves near the Cape Verde Islands stretched their advantage over nearest rivals, Denmark’s Team Vestas Wind, by daybreak on Sunday.

The race covers 38,789 nautical miles, visiting 11 ports, over nearly nine months. It concludes on June 27, 2015, in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Seven teams from China, Denmark, Spain, Abu Dhabi, Turkey/U.S., the Netherlands and Sweden are competing. The Swedish entry, Team SCA, boasts the first all-female crew to take part in the race for 12 years.

After a good start in which they briefly took the lead, the women have slipped back in the last two days and now trail Dongfeng by some 90 nautical miles.

Update hourly