Swedish boats take Volvo Ocean Race lead

The two ships belonging to Swedish team Ericsson took the lead Sunday of the Volvo Ocean Race around the world one day after it departed from Spain while Spanish team Telefonica Blue's ship had to make a stop to repair steering damage.

Ericsson 3 and Ericsson 4 were tied in the lead after they crossed the Strait of Gibraltar on their way down the Atlantic to Cape Town in South Africa where the first leg of the race will end.

Telefonica Blue meanwhile stopped at the port of Algeciras in the Bay of Gibraltar to fix a tiller arm which broke after they were just 20 miles into the first leg, leaving them with just one rudder.

They now have to serve a 12-hour penalty under the pit stop rule before re-starting.

“How do we feel? Just gutted. The good thing is that we crawled back on some of the other boats, but the Ericsson guys are in fat city,” Dutch skipper Bouwe Bekking said in the dispatch sent to race headquarters.

Winds, which were gusting at more than 20 knots an hour when the race got underway, have weakened to 5-6 knots.

Thousands of people and hundreds of spectator boats saw off the eight yachts representing seven nations on Saturday from the Mediterranean port of Alicante in the presence of Spanish King Juan Carlos.

After 37,000 nautical miles (68,500 kilometres), the finish line is in St. Petersburg, Russia, where the teams are expected in June 2009.