Sailing - MAPFRE clinches victory in Itajai to extend In-Port Series lead

FILE PHOTO: Volvo Ocean Race skipper Xabi Fernandez of team Mapfre attends a news conference in Lisbon, Portugal November 3, 2017. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

(Reuters) - Spanish team MAPFRE won the Itajai In-Port Race in Brazil on Friday after an intense battle with team AkzoNobel for the lead.

The victory enabled Xabi Fernandez and his team to extend their lead in the Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Series to five points over Dongfeng Race Team, who crossed the line in third place.

“It was a good race for us today, right from the start, but the key for us was being able to pass AkzoNobel on the first downwind,” Fernandez said. “From there we could stretch.

“Being the series leader is always good. We know how tight the overall race leaderboard is where we’re just one point behind Dongfeng, so this could be important at the end of the race and for that we are happy today.”

AkzoNobel, skippered by Simeon Tienpont, moved up to third on the leaderboard with a second-placed finish.

Team Brunel had made a strong start but were undone by a sail handling error at the top mark, which dropped them with Vestas 11th Hour Racing at the back of the fleet.

Team Sun Hung Kai Scallywag did not start with the boat still out of the water being prepared for the ocean leg this weekend.

The In-Port Races are scored separately from the ocean legs but the series acts as a tie-breaking mechanism in the overall points tally.

The eighth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race will begin from Itajai on Sunday as the seven teams head to Newport, U.S.

Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond