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American Skipper Leading Volvo Ocean Race - 2002-05-10

American John Kostecki has skippered the German yacht "Illbruck" to victory in the seventh leg of the Volvo Ocean Race from the Eastern U.S. port of Annapolis, Maryland to La Rochelle in France. The win means Illbruck is now the hot favorite to win the whole event after finishing first for the fourth time in seven legs.

There were signs that Illbruck's so-far immaculate campaign in the Volvo Ocean race was running out of steam, beaten into Miami by "Assa Abloy" and only finishing fourth on the short sixth-leg to Baltimore.

But skipper John Kostecki and his men bounced back in spectacular style in the trip across the Atlantic, dominating the seventh-leg from start to finish.

En route, they also smashed the world's speed record for a single-hulled boat covering 484 (nautical)-miles in one 24-hour spell. The team even coped with a gastric flu epidemic, which laid low virtually every crew member on the trip.

Assa Abloy looks certain to finish second, which means mathematically Illbruck could still lose out on the overall prize for the race. But realistically, an eight-point-lead with just two legs to go should ensure that the trophy stays in Germany with the team when the regatta finishes in Kiel on June 9.