First to Sweden, stays alive in Volvo race


Closest racing in history of round-the-world event



In the closest racing in the 29-year history of sailing's premier round-the-world event, the first five boats finished within less than seven minutes of each other early today in Goteborg, Sweden, and ASSA ABLOY kept alive its hopes of winning the Volvo Ocean Race when it sailed victoriously into its home port.

A flotilla of more than 200 spectator boats ushered the Swedish entry across the Leg 8 finish line just minutes after midnight local time and just 2 minutes, 16 seconds ahead of Bermuda's Team Tyco. It was the fourth-closest 1-2 finish in the history of the event, which began as the Whitbread in 1973.

After the eight-boat fleet raced more than 1,075 nautical miles from LaRochelle, France, less than a mile separated the first- through fifth-place finishers. The third-, fourth- and fifth-place boats - Australia's News Corp, Germany's illbruck Challenge and Italy's Amer Sports One - finished within the next 4:34.

"What a great race!" said famed Swedish sailor Magnus Olsson, an ASSA ABLOY helmsman. "Better than any sailing I have ever done in my life. Great waves, lots of wind, big tidal changes ... tacking all the time, boats everywhere, no sleep, adrenaline rushing. Crazy, it was crazy."

Sweden's Team SEB finished sixth 44 minutes later, and Norway's djuice dragons was seventh 2 hours, 22 minutes later.

With its third victory in the nine-leg, 32,700-mile race, ASSA ABLOY clinched at least second overall. Illbruck's standings lead was trimmed to five points, but the German entry can claim a Volvo victory June 9 by finishing no worse than fifth on the 250-mile sprint to Kiel, Germany, the race's final leg.

Reports from Volvo's Web site contributed to this article.

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