Spanish leaders set to tighten grip on Volvo race

MIAMI Sun Apr 29, 2012 6:14am EDT

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MIAMI (Reuters) - Overall leaders Telefonica were threatening to take a stranglehold on the Volvo Ocean Race after moving menacingly into second place on the sixth leg from Brazil to the United States on Sunday.

Skipper Iker Martinez, an Olympic gold medalist in Athens 2004 and gunning for another in the London Games less than a month after the Volvo race ends in July, leads the fleet in the overall standings by 16 points.

Another victory in this leg would stretch his lead by at least five points with only three legs remaining as the race returns to Europe. Each leg counts 30 points to the winner with second claiming 25 and third 20.

First, however, Telefonica need to pass American-led Puma, who led by just over 13 nautical miles (24km), as the fleet rounded the southern tip of Brazil heading for the Caribbean and then Miami, a journey of some 4,500 nautical miles in total.

Overnight, the Spanish crew edged past another contender for overall race victory, Camper (Spain/New Zealand) who lie a further 1.5 nautical miles adrift and still very much in the running for the leg honors.

The 39,000-nautical mile, nine-month marathon race is scheduled to finish in Galway, Ireland on July 7.

Overall standings: 1 Telefonica (Spain) 149 points, 2 Groupama (France) 133, 3 Camper (NZ/Spain) 124, 4 Puma (U.S.) 117, 5 Abu Dhabi (UAE) 58, 6 Team Sanya (China) 25

(Editing by John O'Brien)

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