Global ocean racers heading for another tight finish

ALICANTE, Spain (AP) The six boats of the Volvo Ocean Race are heading for another very close finish in the seventh leg, with Dutch competitor Team Brunel holding a tiny lead Sunday.

The switch by the 41-year-old event to a one-design boat - which all teams must use - has produced the closest race in its history so far and this latest stage of 2,800 nautical miles (3,220 miles; 5,185 kilometers) through the Atlantic from the United States to Europe has been no exception.

The first five boats are separated by only 14.5 nautical miles with just under 1,000 nautical miles to sail before they arrive at their destination in Lisbon after setting out from Newport, Rhode Island, on May 17.

Team Brunel, skippered by 51-year-old Bouwe Bekking, led by just 0.1 nautical miles from Spanish MAPFRE with Chinese challenger Dongfeng Race Team 3.8 nautical miles further adrift early Sunday.

The sixth crew, the Sweden-backed Team SCA, is still in with a chance of a top-three podium finish after making up more than 50 nautical miles on the rest of the fleet overnight, thanks to a stronger breeze in their northernmost position. The all-women's team trailed the leader by 47.7 nautical miles.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, skippered by Briton Ian Walker, leads the overall standings by six points from Dongfeng, but is currently fifth and in danger of having that advantage cut with two legs to go after this.

However, the Emirati boat is also gambling on finding more wind on the longer route to the north, in the chase to arrive in the Portuguese capital first.

Race headquarters has forecast the fleet will arrive in Lisbon between 0500 and 1200 GMT on May 27.

Crews will have a break for boat maintenance before setting out for the final two legs on June 7.

The race finishes on June 27 in Gothenburg, Sweden.

In all, the fleet will cover 38,739 nautical miles over the nine months of the race, visiting 11 ports around the world and every continent.

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