- Associated Press - Thursday, May 7, 2015

NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) - Chinese challengers Dongfeng Race Team, which suffered a broken mast in the previous leg, responded in perfect style by winning a closely fought finish to stage six of the Volvo Ocean Race late on Wednesday.

They beat overall race leaders Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing into Newport by only 3 minutes and 25 seconds after an absorbing 24-hour dogfight along the U.S. east coast.

Wednesday’s victory in the 5,010-nautical mile (nm) stage has cut the deficit to the Emirati boat to six points and leaves Dongfeng with a good chance of overall race victory with three stages remaining.

The Chinese boat had started the previous stage as joint race leaders but their mast fractured 200nm from Cape Horn in the Southern Ocean, and they were forced to retire from that stage for repairs and a new mast fitting.

The shore crew repaired their stricken boat in Itajaí, Brazil, in less than a week.

“For this leg, the goal was to be ready in Itajaí and the (shore) crew did a fantastic job,” French skipper Charles Caudrelier said. “I’d like to give them credit for the victory.

“I’m very proud of them and very happy to take this first place. They worked very hard to get this boat ready. I’m really, really happy.”

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing made Caudrelier and his men work all the way for the win after more than 17 days at sea and even threatened to overturn their lead as they passed Block Island 30nm from the finish.

“We were within a couple of lengths of getting over them at Block Island - literally three or four boat lengths from rolling them - but they held on and dug deep. Very well deserved win,” said their British skipper Ian Walker.

Dutch challengers Team Brunel finished third, under an hour behind the leading two, with Spanish boat MAPFRE in fourth. Team Alvimedica (Turkey/U.S.) took fifth ahead of Team SCA (Sweden), the all-women’s crew.

The boats will now have 10 days in dock in Newport for maintenance before returning to the offshore action with the trans-Atlantic leg to Lisbon, Portugal. There then follows two legs to France and Sweden before the event concludes on June 27 in Gothenburg.

In all, the boats will visit 11 ports, every continent, and cover 38,739nm.

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