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Dutch making splash in 'Life in the Extreme'

| Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Dutch were first -- and last.

An around-the-world yacht race made a stop in New York, with the Dutch sailboat ABN AMRO ONE passing the Hudson River finish line more than 20 miles ahead of the nearest competitor, Pirates of the Caribbean, the U.S. team backed by Disney. The leader's Dutch counterpart, ABN AMRO TWO, was last, slowed when rigging broke in a 53-knot wind.

But with the Atlantic Ocean and North Sea still ahead, the ABN AMRO TWO still could climb out of its tie for overall fourth place before next month's finish of the 36,000-mile, seven-month Volvo Ocean Race in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Heeding the race motto "Life in the Extreme," the sailors have braved 50-foot waves, icebergs, sleep deprivation and savage winds, with fans following them on the Internet. A few were sidelined by back and shoulder injuries and a broken hand.

And now, the rest are in Manhattan, preparing for the next leg of the race, which starts today, from New York to Portsmouth, England.

All seven carbon-fiber yachts arrived in New York at the North Cove Marina near the World Trade Center site -- the last two being the Australian yacht Brunel and the ABN AMRO TWO.

After sailing out of Chesapeake Bay, the Dutch boat slowed when a piece of rigging broke during a sail adjustment, said Ben Wright, an Australian technical shore manager for the AMRO team.

The ABN AMRO ONE, sponsored by the Dutch-based international holding company by that name, has kept the overall lead for most of the race.

After a 39-hour run along the Atlantic coast, its skipper, Mike Sanderson, was ready for some rest.

"I'm a little tired, but nothing that 12 hours in the dead of sleep won't fix," he said.

Sanderson's sailboat, with a 10-person crew, is the widest and heaviest of the seven Volvo 70-footers participating in the race.

The boats are scheduled to stop in Britain and the Netherlands before finishing the race, which began in November in Spain and included stops in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil. It's a longer and tougher trip than the first contest in 1973, called the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race and sponsored by a London brewery.

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