SOUTHAMPTON, England (AP) _ American yachtsman Paul Cayard didn't have to win the ninth leg of the Whitbread Round the World race _ his EF Language already had clinched the overall title.

He was happy to finish second in the final leg to New Zealander Grant Dalton's Merit Cup.

``My hat's off to (Merit Cup),'' Cayard said Sunday. ``They were in the lead for a lot of the leg and managed to hold on. But I'll take second place on the final leg.

``As you are coming toward the finish line, to see all the boats out there is exciting.

``In this leg, we were changing our sails back and forth a lot. It wasn't easy. I'm happy that my Whitbread was not riding on this leg,'' said Cayard, whose crew finished 138 points ahead of Merit Cup in the overall standings.

After eight months of sailing the oceans, the nine yachts sailed into Ocean Village after 31,600 miles of racing.

Cayard, who crossed the finish line 20 minutes behind Merit Cup on the final leg, clinched the overall title when the fleet arrived at La Rochelle on the French coach last week. Merit Cup's victory Sunday ensured Dalton's boat of taking second overall.

Innovation Kvaerner, skippered by Norway's Knuts Frostad, placed third in the ninth leg, just ahead of British yacht Silk Cut (Lawrie Smith).

Swedish Match (Gunnar Krantz and Erle Williams) came in fifth, followed by Toshiba (Dennis Conner and Paul Standbridge), BrunelSunergy (Roy Heiner). Chessie Racing (John Kostecki) and the all-women crew of EF Education (Christine Guillou).