Illbruck first to France in Leg 7 of Volvo race

Speed record is a plus

ASSA ABLOY runner-up



Illbruck Challenge, a claim check for a 24-hour speed record in its pocket, sailed into La Rochelle, France, yesterday two days ahead of schedule, to win Leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race.

The German entry, skippered by John Kostecki, arrived 10 days, 20 hours and 44 minutes after leaving Annapolis on the 3,400-nautical-mile leg.

Sweden's ASSA ABLOY, the fleet's most consistent performer the past five legs, was second into La Rochelle, less than three hours behind. Bermuda's Team Tyco finished third, 40 minutes later.

Ilbruck's victory, its fourth in the nine-leg, 32,700-mile, round-the-world race, gave Kostecki's crew a commanding, eight-point lead in the standings.

"It was fantastic, fast, exciting, world-record setting, and [we're] victorious at the end," Kostecki said. "We knew we had to push hard. ... It worked out for us.

"We had some tough talks in Baltimore, made some minor adjustments like you would in any other professional sporting event," he said of his fourth-place finish in the Miami-to-Baltimore leg. "We have a great team, a great boat and a good sail program."

lllbruck arrived in France claiming a distance record for a monohulled boat. Illbruck logged 484 nautical miles during a 24-hour period ending April 30, breaking the record of 467.7 miles set last year by Bernard Stamm.

On the record run, illbruck reached a top speed of 38.98 knots (44.86 mph). The distance mark, aided by a 3-knot, Gulf Stream current, is expected to be ratified by the International Sailing Federation.

"It is awesome," Kostecki said. "Every one on our team did a great job. We prepared the boat properly. We had no serious breakdowns during the 24 hours in our record run. The boat was going fast, the crew was working the boat hard, and we made the right sail calls."

Though illbruck has not clinched the overall victory, it has been efficient, collecting 49 of a possible 56 points through seven legs. But Kostecki's boat has been vulnerable in shorter legs. The remaining legs are relative sprints - Leg 8's 1,075 nautical miles to Goteborg, Sweden, and Leg 9's 250-mile dash to the finish in Kiel, Germany.

In Leg 7, Sweden's Team SEB edged Amer Sports One by 11 minutes to finish fourth. Australia's Team News Corp was sixth, and Norway's djuice was seventh. The women aboard Italy's Amer Sports Too were dismasted early in the leg, retired and motored to Halifax, Nova Scotia. They are expected to be ready for the Leg 8 start May 25.

Reports from the Volvo Ocean Race Web site contributed to this article.

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