Looking ahead

From Rio Andy Rice give his views on what might happen now in the Volvo Ocean Race
While this is the closest round-the-world race ever witnessed, the fact remains that illbruck's grasp on the Volvo Ocean Race is beginning to look unbreakable. Even if she were to retire from the next leg and her nearest rival, Amer Sports One, were to win the race to Miami - they would still only be tied on points for first. John Kostecki and his gang could go and take a holiday for the next month. Whilst Kostecki is always keen after any victory to play down their dominance, he was noticeably more relaxed and upbeat on his arrival in Rio. There was even a hint of celebration from Captain Sensible. The usually abstemious skipper was still drinking with the rest of his crew at 1 o'clock in the afternoon, 10 hours after they pulled into Marina da Gloria here in Rio in the middle of the night. Even he might be beginning to admit that this race is looking like a done deal. For the first time, some of the other sailors are beginning to acknowledge that they are more in a fight for second place than making a realistic bid to topple illbruck. Tyco's Kevin Shoebridge and Assa Abloy's navigator Mark Rudiger believe said as much on their arrival yesterday. But others remain bullish. Grant Dalton dismisses such defeatism as "silly talk". Neal McDonald still believes illbruck could get hit by a breakdown. It's the nature of this type of racing. After all, it happened to Chris Dickson aboard Tokio in the 93/94 Whitbread, albeit under a harsher time-based scoring system. With only one long leg remaining - the transatlantic passage from Annapolis to La Rochelle - Dalton believes the nature of the race will change dramatically. Short course racing will make very different demands on the crews and could nullify some