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27 Jun, 2009 19:33

St. Pete waves checkered flag at Volvo Ocean Race

After 37,000 nautical miles, nine months of gale force winds, mountainous seas and sleep deprivation the Volvo Ocean Race has come to an end, with the eight international teams crossing the finish line in St. Petersburg.

For the first time in the race’s 35-year history the yachts saw the checkered flag in Russia, which for St. Petersburg is a great reason to celebrate.

The racers finished the final leg of the competition early in the morning in the Gulf of Finland and they sailed into the city – which sits on the River Neva and is often referred to as Russia’s Venice – later on the day.

Two bridges were raised specially in order to let the fleet into St. Petersburg.

The members of the regatta moored at the Peter and Paul Fortress situated on Hare Island by the north bank of the Neva, where the Race Village is set up.

The village is open to visitors with concert shows planned to be staged throughout the whole weekend.

Little was at stake during the 10th and final leg of the race as the Ericsson 4 team, led by four-time Olympic medalist Torben Grael of Brazil, had already claimed the overall victory after Leg 9 on June 16.

Yet the battle for the second spot went to Puma, who managed to overtake their rivals from Telefonica Blue.

“I think it is a mixed feeling because we know this is the end of the story for the project. It’s a funny feeling because some of these guys you have never met before and you become like brothers. Now we go our own ways and it’s a strange feeling,” Torben Grael said to Volvo Ocean Race official website.

The final leg saw the yachts taking start from Stockholm and sailing to the Russian Northern Capital, with the White Nights as its entourage.

In addition, the organizers allowed the Russian Team, who retired from the race in December 2008, to return to the race and show off in front of the home crowd.