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  Saturday, 11 May, 2002, 11:13 GMT 12:13 UK
Illbruck tightens grip on Volvo
Lisa McDonald's Amer Sports Too limps into Halifax having broken her mast
Amer Sports Too broke her mast crossing the Atlantic
Volvo Ocean Race overall leader Illbruck claimed another leg win with victory into La Rochelle on Thursday.

John Kostecki's flu-ridden crew crossed the line off the French coast at 1444 BST to claim another maximum eight points and take a virtually unassailable lead with two legs left.

Illbruck pushed the monohull 24-hour distance record to 484 miles on the 10-day Atlantic crossing from Annapolis, one day after bettering the previous mark of 467 miles set by Bernard Stamm's Armor Lux last year.

Kostecki's team have now won all the major ocean legs of the race, having also prevailed in the haul from Southampton to Cape Town and both the treacherous Southern Ocean legs.

And they have never finished worse than fourth in a leg.

"I am speechless, it is awesome to break the world record by so much," said Kostecki afterwards.

  Leg seven results:
1. Illbruck
2. Assa Abloy
3. Team Tyco
4. Team SEB
5. Amer Sports One
6. Team News Corp
7. Djuice
8. Amer Sports Too (ret'd)

"Everyone on our team did a great job. We prepared the boat properly and we had no serious breakdowns during the 24 hours in our record run.

"We are unsure what the stomach problems are, but four of us have been throwing up violently over the last 48 hours."

Despite his crew's valiant efforts, Kostecki said he would not get complacent about the overall race standings.

"Its great to be back in Europe, but we still have 22% of the points still left on the table so we have to keep pushing hard. The race is not over until it's over," he said.

Illbruck's closest rival Assa Abloy finished three hours behind in second place, holding off a sustained charge from Team Tyco, who crossed the line an hour later in fourth.

British skipper Neal McDonald's crew - first into Auckland and Miami - trail Illbruck by eight points in the overall standings with Amer Sports One five points further back in third.

  Overall standings after leg eight:
1. Illbruck - 49 pts
2. Assa Abloy - 41
3. Amer Sports One - 36
4. Team News Corp - 34
5. Team Tyco - 33
6. Team SEB - 26
7. Djuice Dragons - 23
8. Amer Sports Too - 10

The remaining two legs - coastal sprints to Gothenburg and then Kiel - offer eight points each.

Gurra Krantz's SEB claimed fourth place on leg seven, edging out Grant Dalton's Amer Sports One after opting to dive south earlier in the leg in the hope of big gains.

"No big hit being here in the south, not the big break we hoped for," Krantz told the race's official website.

"Only Djuice got stuck up north and our net gain on the front runners only lasted for two skeds. No guts, no glory they say but not this time."

Rudder damage

Jez Fanstone's Team News Corp - winners into Baltimore - finished 34 minutes behind Dalton in sixth to hang onto their fourth place overall.

But Fanstone had been keeping a secret for almost the entire leg - 18 inches of their rudder had broken off four days out of Annapolis.

"We didn't tell anybody because we didn't feel it was worth letting the opposition know we were actually going slow," he said afterwards.

"If they think they're gaining bearing on us they might just keep the wrong sail up, something we watched Amer One do quite regularly - which was amusing."

Knut Frostad's Djuice was in seventh with Lisa McDonald's Amer Sports Too having retired to Halifax, Nova Scotia, with a broken mast.

Ten metres of the 26-metre mast was left standing after it snapped at the second set of spreaders while they were sailing in 14-knot breezes, 400 miles east of Halifax.

No-one was injured and they were towed into port by a Canadian coast guard icebreaker.

The eighth leg starts from La Rochelle on 25 May before the race ends in Germany on 9 June.

BBC Five Live's Guy Swindells
"Illbruck haven't finished worse than fourth"
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