Tuesday 31 January 2012

Telefonica Relief for Cape

After three days of dodging container ships, unlit fishing boats and all manner of objects floating in the sea, Team Telefónica navigator Andrew Cape couldn’t hide his relief at being clear of the Malacca Strait – but said the danger is not over yet.

“There's oil rigs, islands, mud banks and everything you can think of, plus a huge amount of debris in the water with logs and trees" - Andrew Cape, Team Telefónica

Not only is Cape charged with getting his crew around the world ahead of their five rival teams, he must also ensure their safety as they take on some of the most dangerous bodies of water in the world. 

“I can't put into words how relieved I am to get out of the strait,” Cape told volvooceanrace.com. “It's a nightmare and I'm really, really relieved that nothing went wrong and even happier that we managed to start in first place and finish there. There’s serious relief all round. It’s good to be out.”

Telefónica led the fleet out of the strait and into the South China Sea yesterday, but four-time race veteran Cape said more challenges lie ahead in the race to Sanya.

“It’s a pretty uncomfortable place to sail, with obstacles in the way again,” he added. “There's oil rigs, islands, mud banks and everything you can think of, plus a huge amount of debris in the water with logs and trees. But that's the game we've got so that's what we've got to do.” 

The main tactical hurdle on the final phase of the leg revolves around the strong current that sweeps down the coast of Vietnam and winds offshore blowing up to 35 knots.

Whether the teams choose to hug the coast staying out of the strongest tide and biggest seas but sacrificing better winds, or gamble against the current and sea state in favour of higher wind speeds, could hold the key to success – or failure.

“We've just got to work out the best way to get to the finish,” Cape said. “Unfortunately that involves heading up towards Vietnam, where there's stronger winds particularly on the corner. 

“We have to take that on and hopefully it won't be too bad and the winds won't be super strong. So we just have to make sure nothing goes wrong. 

“That will be a very tricky stage. Hopefully the next day will be pretty straightforward but the Vietnam part will be very tricky indeed.”

Chelsea Announce $110m Losses

Chelsea faces a tough task complying with UEFA's new financial controls after announcing losses of almost $110 million in the past financial year on Tuesday.

UEFA President Michel Platini is trying to curb the mass levels of spending in European football with clubs set to be barred from the Champions League if they breach the so-called "financial fair play'' rules.

While Chelsea reduced its losses to 67.7 million pounds ($109 million) in the year to June 30, 2011, from 70.9 million pounds ($106 million), they were still higher than the two years before that.

That was largely due to owner Roman Abramovich funding the signing of Fernando Torres for 50 million pounds (then $80 million) on the last day of the January transfer window in 2011.

In an initial two-year monitoring period that started in July 2011, UEFA's rules allow clubs to make a total loss of ?5 million ($6.5 million) in the first assessment period or up to ?45 million ($58 million) if a wealthy owner makes a one-time donation to wipe out losses.

Persistent loss-makers can first be barred from the 2014-15 Champions League, which currently distributes prize money of around ?700 million ($900 million) each season to 32 clubs playing in the group stage.

UEFA said last week that 13 clubs, including several from England, would have failed break-even tests on their 2010 accounts.

Chelsea says it is "well aware of our obligations'' under the new spending rules.

"The club is focused on complying with the requirements of UEFA's financial fair play regulations while maintaining its ability to challenge for major trophies,'' chairman Bruce Buck said. "We would expect this to be reflected in our results for the current financial year.''

Chelsea said it expects "the current year's profit and loss account to show a significant improvement.''

Key to that will be bringing more money into the west London club. Turnover increased by less than 10 percent to 222.3 million pounds ($357 million) in the year to June 30, 2011, from 205.8 million pounds ($330 million).

With revenue from the Champions League key to that turnover, Chelsea cannot afford to miss out on Europe's elite competition next season. Andre Villas-Boas' side is currently in the fourth qualifying place and would have to go through a playoff if it ended the season in the same position.

Abramovich has bankrolled Chelsea since the Russian billionaire's 2003 takeover, earning three English league titles and three FA Cups. In 2009, he converted 340 million pounds (then $541 million) of interest-free loans into equity to make the club debt-free.

Nikica Jelavic Joins Toffees

Everton have signed Croatian international striker Nikica Jelavic from Rangers for an undisclosed fee.

The 26-year-old joins the Blues on a four-and-a-half-year deal.

Jelavic, who moved to the Gers from Rapid Vienna in August 2010, has scored 17 goals in all competitions so far this season.

He becomes David Moyes' third signing of the January transfer window, following deals for Landon Donovan and Darron Gibson.

Everton this week sold Diniyar Bilyaletdinov to Spartak Moscow for £5m.

Jelavic received a warm reception after being introduced to Blues supporters at half time in Tuesday's Premier League game with Manchester City at Goodison Park.

He will be available to make his first appearance in Saturday's trip to Wigan.

Scottish champions Rangers are currently experiencing financial problems and Rangers manager Ally McCoist admitted on Saturday: "Nikica, if he went, would be a big loss.

"He's a fantastic player and he has been a great talent here. But, as you saw, we scored some really good goals. Nikica also didn't play against Motherwell and equally we did very well. That's just two examples.

"I'd also like to tell you I wouldn't like to lose him. Of course I wouldn't, because he's a good player. But I understand the economics of our club and I understand the economics of football. Sometimes they dictate and determine what happens."

Moyes was initially interested in Jelavic when he moved to Ibrox from Rapid Vienna for £4m in August 2010.

Pavlyuchenko Lokomotiv Bound.

Tottenham are in talks with Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow over the sale of striker Roman Pavlyuchenko.

The 30-year-old Russia international joined Spurs from Spartak Moscow on a five-year contract for £14m in 2008, scoring 42 goals in 114 appearances.

It is understood a deal has been agreed by the clubs but it may depend on the completion of Luis Saha's proposed moved from Everton to Tottenham.

Lokomotiv have reportedly offered Tottenham a fee in the region of £8m.

Zamora Regains Sparky

Queens Park Rangers have agreed to sign striker Bobby Zamora from Fulham for a fee in the region of £4m.

Zamora is yet to have his medical but personal terms have been agreed and he looks set to be reunited with his former Fulham boss Mark Hughes at QPR.

The England forward joined Fulham for £4.8m from West Ham in July 2008.

Earlier this month Cottagers manager Martin Jol dismissed reports that Zamora was set to leave amid rumours of a rift between the two.

Zamora, who has scored seven goals in 29 appearances this season, signed a four-year deal to 2014 with Fulham when Hughes was manager of the west London club.

Meanwhile, QPR midfielders Martin Rowlands and Petter Vaagan Moen have had their contracts terminated by mutual consent.

Rowlands, 32, was signed from Brentford by Ian Holloway in July 2003 and made more than 200 appearances for the Rs.

Norwegian Vaagan Moen, 27, arrived at Loftus Road in January 2011 from SK Brann but made just two starts and six substitute appearances for the club.

Thomas Eisfeld Joins Gunners

Arsenal have signed midfielder Thomas Eisfeld from Borussia Dortmund on a long-term contract.

Eisfeld, 19, can play in several positions and was part of Dortmund's academy for seven years. He has captained Germany's under-15 team.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger told the club's official website: "Thomas is a player we have liked for some time.

"We've watched him closely this season, where he has excelled for Dortmund's youth team."

Eisfeld has scored six goals and produced the same number of assists in his 12 appearances for Borussia Dortmund's Under-19s this season.

He said: "It's a real honour to be team-mates with the great players at Arsenal, and also training every day with players like Tomas Rosicky - who I grew up watching play at Dortmund.

"I will give it everything I have here and do my best to make the manager, players and fans happy."

Wenger added: "He is young but has proven to us that he can play, that he has the attitude and technical ability to be a valuable addition to our squad."

Lorenzo Tops Sepang Testing

Jorge Lorenzo ended the day on top in Malaysia as MotoGP testing returned ahead of the 2012 season.

Lorenzo - who won the world championship in 2010 - managed a best lap of two minutes 1.657 seconds on his Yamaha, ahead of Dani Pedrosa and British rider Cal Crutchlow.

Current champion Casey Stoner missed the test after injuring his back, but he expects to ride on Wednesday.

Stoner said: "I was stretching and all of a sudden my back just locked up."

The capacity of MotoGP bikes has increased from 800cc to 1000cc this year and Lorenzo - riding for the first time since losing the tip of a finger last year - admitted that he is already enjoying the extra power available.

"It felt better than ever to be back on a MotoGP bike," he said. "The finger is shorter and lighter - that's why I went faster!

"The 1000cc bike is much more powerful so, if you make a mistake. you have enough power to recover the time on the exit. With the 800 you could not make any mistakes."

Nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi endured a poor 2011, but was pleased with his new Ducati after clocking the fifth-best time.

Rossi said: "I am so happy because we fixed a lot of problems that in all of the 2011 season we were not able to improve.

"Braking, corner entry, agility - the bike is a lot better. Ducati have done a great job in a short time."

The first MotoGP of the season will take place in Qatar on 8 April.

Selected MotoGP test times from Sepang:
1. Jorge Lorenzo (Spn) Yamaha 2'01.657
2. Dani Pedrosa (Spn) Repsol Honda 2'02.003
3. Cal Crutchlow (GB) Tech 3 Yamaha 2'02.221
4. Ben Spies (USA) Yamaha 2'02.234
5. Valentino Rossi (Ita) Ducati 2'02.392
6. Andrea Dovizioso (Ita) Tech 3 Yamaha 2'02.751
10. Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati 2'03.151
15. Colin Edwards (USA) Forward Racing CRT 2'08.240

Bellamy Considers Wales Retirement

Wales striker Craig Bellamy admits he is considering international retirement after the Gary Speed memorial match against Costa Rica in February.

Speed died in November after leading a resurgence in the Wales national team and he has been succeeded as manager by Chris Coleman.

And Bellamy, 32, says the Costa Rica game on 29 February could be his final Wales appearance.

"I don't know whether I'll play on for Wales," Bellamy told the Daily Mirror.

"I do think it's going to be difficult for me to play because of the impact of what happened [to Gary Speed].

"I am committed to the Costa Rica game and then it might be my last. I'm not too sure. It might be but it might not. There are a lot of people I need to talk to.

"Wales has meant everything to me. It has been the highlight of my career.

"I believed in him [Speed] that much as a manager and I believed in him that much as a person, I actually thought we were going to qualify for the World Cup.

"I wanted him [Speed] to have that satisfaction as well because I saw how hard he tried for Wales and how hard he played. To try to qualify and him not be there, I don't know."

The Liverpool star made his Wales debut aged 18 against Jamaica in March 1998 but his injury problems have restricted him to 67 caps.

Bellamy conceded after Wales lost 2-0 to England on March 2 that he would consider his international future after the Nations Cup double-header with Scotland and Northern Ireland.

But after talks with Speed, Bellamy continued and was in fine form when Wales enjoyed a run of four wins from five games before the manager's death in November.

New manager Coleman has had initial talks with Bellamy about him extending his international career to the end of the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign.

Coleman said after taking over as manager: "We need Craig Bellamy, not just because of his ability but also because of his mentality. He can be demanding and difficult but also he wants things done right and sometimes that pushes people in the right direction, so I hope he stays."

One sticking point could be the future of Raymond Verheijen, who was Wales assistant manager under Speed, and is very close to Bellamy.

With Kit Symons, the 36-times capped defender, to be an assistant under Coleman there may be no room for the Dutchman. 

Mariappa Bid By Bolton Rejected

Watford have turned down a bid from Wigan for defender Adrian Mariappa, BBC Sport understands.

Mariappa came through the ranks at the Championship club and has also been linked with Newcastle and Arsenal.

The 25-year-old Watford vice-captain made his debut in August 2005 and has played 244 games for the club.

The defender has 18 months remaining on his contract at Vicarage Road and has previously skippered the club, who are currently 18th in the Championship.

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has confirmed that he has made his final bid for Mariappa.

Keogh Leaves Wolves for Millwall

Millwall have signed striker Andy Keogh from Premier League side Wolves for an undisclosed fee.

The 25-year-old, who has signed a two-and-a-half-year deal, had been at Molineux for five years and scored 23 goals in 129 appearances.

Republic of Ireland international Keogh joined Wolves from Scunthorpe for £600,000 in Janaury 2007.

He spent last season on loan at Cardiff and Bristol City and was on loan at Leeds United for most of this season.

Corluka Loan Deal to Bayer

Tottenham defender Vedran Corluka has joined Bayer Leverkusen on loan until the end of the season.

Corluka has made 76 league starts since moving to White Hart Lane from Manchester City in September 2008.

But the 25-year-old Croatian international, who cost Tottenham £8.5m, has struggled to cement a place in Harry Redknapp's plans this season.

Corluka's last league appearance was as a last-minute substitute in Tottenham's 2-1 win over Arsenal in October.

The decision to let Corluka go leaves Tottenham without any backup for England defender Kyle Walker at right-back for the remainder of the season.

Bayer Leverkusen are currently sixth in the Bundesliga and Corluka is expected to make his debut in the home game with Suttgart on Saturday.

Leverkusen's squad also includes former Chelsea midfielder Michael Ballack.

Ridgewell Moves Across Town

West Bromwich Albion have completed the signing of defender Liam Ridgewell from Birmingham City for an undisclosed fee.

The 27-year-old has penned a two-and-a-half-year deal at the Hawthorns, with the option of an extra year.

Ridgewell is not eligible to play in West Brom's Premier League trip to Fulham on Wednesday.

"Liam is a very experienced defender and has the added benefit of being left-sided," said Baggies manager Roy Hodgson.

"We do not have many of those defenders at the club. He can also play in two positions [left-back and centre-back] and he is used to playing in teams under pressure to get results to stay in the league.

"We hope we won't be one of those teams under pressure," Hodgson added. "But if we are, it is good to have someone of that experience."

Ridgewell made 152 league appearances for Birmingham after joining from neighbours Aston Villa for £2m in August 2007.

But he made it clear last summer he wanted to leave the Blues after handing in a transfer request.

He helped Birmingham to Carling Cup success last season, but was keen to return to the Premier League following the Blues' relegation last May.

O'Neill in Bridge Loan

Sunderland have signed Manchester City full-back Wayne Bridge on loan for the rest of the season.

The former Chelsea defender, 31, has only played once for City manager Roberto Mancini this season - in a 2-0 Carling Cup victory over Birmingham.

Capped 36 times for England, Bridge was signed by Mark Hughes in the January transfer window of 2009.

"I'm hoping that with Wayne's ability and experience he can be a big help," said Black Cats boss Martin O'Neill.

"I'm very pleased to have him here and with the number of injuries we've sustained recently I'm sure he'll be a great help to us."

The arrival of Aleksander Kolarov at City limited Bridge's opportunities and he had a loan spell at West Ham last season, but has only managed 78 minutes - in that Cup tie, in which he was substituted - for City's first team this season.

O'Neill moved for the experienced left-back after his defensive resources were further stretched by the loss of Wes Brown to a suspected medial ligament injury at the weekend.

Bridge joined Chelsea from his home-town club Southampton for £7m in July 2003 before his £12m switch to City.

But he has made only 58 appearances in three years at the Etihad Stadium.

Miyaichi Loan Move to Bolton

Bolton have signed Arsenal midfielder Ryo Miyaichi on loan for the rest of the season.

The Japan youth international, 19, joined Arsenal in January 2011 and spent the second half of last season on loan at Feyenoord.

Miyaichi is not eligible to face his parent club on Wednesday.

"He's a very talented young player who is is quick and exciting," Bolton manager Owen Coyle told the club's official website.

"He had a great spell on loan at Feyenoord last season.

"He's a young player with tremendous promise and potential, and hopefully at Bolton we can give him a platform on which he can display his qualities."

Miyaichi had a successful trial with the Gunners in the summer of 2010 before making a permanent move to Emirates Stadium in January.

He was immediately loaned to Feyenoord, where he scored three goals in 12 appearances, in order to qualify for a work permit, which he was granted in August.

Miyaichi has made two substitute appearances for Arsenal this season, including an outing in the 2-1 Carling Cup win over Bolton in October.

Coyle has enjoyed previous success in the loan market, being boosted by the acquisitions of Arsenal's Jack Wilshere and Chelsea's Daniel Sturridge in the past two years.

Miyaichi could make his Trotters debut at Norwich on Saturday.

Murray Out of Davis Cup Clash

British number one Andy Murray will miss next month's Davis Cup match against Slovakia because of injury concerns following the Australian Open.

James Ward, Dan Evans, Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins make up the team.

"I'm gutted to miss out on the Davis Cup having really enjoyed playing last year," said Murray.

"But, as it's only the start of an important season, which includes the Olympics in London, it's probably a sensible decision."

Murray reached the semi-finals in Melbourne before losing a five-set thriller to eventual champion Novak Djokovic.

He added: "I've been told to take a few weeks off after picking up a few minor injuries in Australia.

"My focus in 2012 is on performing well in the Grand Slams and the Olympics. I look forward to playing in the next Davis Cup tie later in the year."

The Slovakia tie, at Glasgow's Braehead Arena on 10-12 February, is Great Britain's first in Euro/Africa Zone Group I since they beat Hungary last September to earn promotion from Group II.

GB captain Leon Smith said: "This is a real step-up in standard for the team, and we go into the tie knowing the Slovak Republic will be favourites.

"But I am confident the boys will see this as a great chance to put everything into representing their country, and that with the backing of a fantastic set of home fans, we can upset the odds."

Sutil Gets Suspended Sentence

German Formula 1 driver Adrian Sutil has been convicted of causing grievous bodily harm to a F1 team owner and given an 18-month suspended sentence.

A court in Munich reached the verdict after a two-day trial. The German driver was also ordered to pay a 200,000 euro (£167,224; $264,092) fine.

Renault F1 executive Eric Lux suffered cuts during the incident in a Shanghai nightclub last April.

Sutil, aged 29, has already apologised over the incident.

Both he and Mr Lux were among guests at a party to celebrate Lewis Hamilton's victory at the China Grand Prix in the Chinese city.

The Renault team has since been renamed Lotus.

Sutil was a driver for the Force India team, but they have announced Nico Hulkenberg will replace him.

Closing the Football Transfer Window

At 11pm Tuesday tonight, The football transfer window will shut for the final time in the 2011/2012 football season.

The BBC and Sky will cover the transfer deadline day with special programmes and live news updates on their news channels.

They will also produce live Premier league football coverage and highlights as five Premier League games and a full night of Championship games take place.

Sky Sports News will merge its Deadline Day coverage with a Gillette Soccer Special from 7:30pm until 10:15pm. So, as some important fixtures are underway, clubs will also be trying to finalise important signings before the window closes.

The Soccer Special panel will be in their studio while Jim White, Natalie Sawyer and Bryan Swanson will be live in the Sky Sports News newsroom with all the latest twists.

Sky will have reporters at all the key games while other reporters will be chasing all the key transfer deals, checking the rumours, sorting fact from fiction.

Also, Manchester City travel to Goodison park to take on Everton, Live on Sky Sports 2.

On The BBC, viewers will be able to keep across the latest transfer news from midday with regular updates from Football Focus presenter Dan Walker with opinion from Martin Keown and BBC Sport journalists via the Red Button.

The BBC News Channel will have updates throughout the day and at 6:30pm there will be a deadline day transfer update programme from the Match of the Day studio.

At 10:35pm on BBC One – Match of the Day with Gary Lineker and the team, featuring action from the Premier League plus a special transfer deadline update for the last 15 minutes of the programme at about 11:50pm.

Lee Dixon and Martin Keown will be on hand with their expert analysis of the transfer window action. (Viewers in Northern Ireland can see MOTD on BBC One from 11:05pm and in Scotland from 11:35pm).

Liverpool Man City Swapshop

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has dismissed speculation that striker Carlos Tevez will move to Liverpool in a swap deal for Andy Carroll.

Tevez has not played for City since 21 September following a long-running feud between the 27-year-old and club.

Carroll, 23, has scored only six goals since joining the Reds for £35m in January 2011.

"Carroll is a good player. He is young. He is strong. But at the moment? No. I've never heard this," said Mancini.

"We don't have any chance to talk about this with Liverpool and I never spoke with [City director of football development] Brian Marwood about it."

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish has also quashed the rumour, simply stating: "There's nothing happening here."

Italian sides Inter and AC Milan have shown an interest in signing Tevez, although Inter, like French side Paris Saint-Germain, have pulled out of the chase.

City want the Argentine's departure to be confirmed before the end of the transfer window but the club are unwilling to reduce their asking price or let him leave on loan.

Tevez's dispute with City began when he was fined two weeks' wages after Mancini alleged that he refused to come on as a substitute during a Champions League defeat by Bayern Munich in September, although Tevez claimed there had been a misunderstanding.

Volvo Race Prepare for Monsoon

The five teams who squeezed their way out of the congested Singapore Strait on Monday are set to face brutal conditions over the next 24 hours in the South China Sea on the final 1,000 miles of upwind sailing of the second stage of Leg 3 to Sanya in China.

As the first five crews settle back into regular watch systems and brace themselves for storm force winds and huge seas, the standings remain unchanged, with race leader’s Team Telefónica maintaining the narrowest of leads after holding off a sustained challenge from second placed Groupama sailing team.

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG remain in third, just over 10 nautical miles ahead of fourth and fifth placed Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand who continue to stalk one another closely, less than two nautical miles apart.

Sixth placed Team Sanya are expected to escape the clutches of the Singapore Strait later today after a near miss with an unlit fishing net on the approach to Singapore.

Drogba Helps Ivory Coast Top Table

Angola choose the wrong day to put up a Luke-warm performance and it cost them a place in the Orange Africa Nations Cup after the 2-0 loss to Ivory Coast opened the door for Sudan 2-1 winners over Burkina Faso to pip Palancas Negras at the post. Angola finished on four points with Sudan but the Desert Hawks’ scored enough goals to overtake Angola

Ivory Coast made several changes to the team that started the first two matches with quarter final place already assured. The changed Ivorian side proved a handful for Angola who just did not bring their A game on the night. In the end the Palancas Negras were so disjointed that they even contributed to their own downfall with defender Dani Massunguna in a miscommunication beat his own goalkeeper with a header that Wilfred Bony gladly helped on for Ivory Coast’s second goal. 

Before that Emmanuel Eboue had put Ivory Coast in the lead in the 33rd minute from just a meter out after Angolan defender Miguel had failed to clear from a cross and had the ball stuck between his legs and when the ball fell kindly to Eboue he put it away.

Angola had possession for a good part of the game and had some chances too but it was not the Angola that imposed its style in the early games. Palancas Negras was largely unchanged side with only two players, Wilson in goal for suspended Carlos Fernandes and Dede coming in for veteran Flavio. The cohesion and usual sharpness was lacking and star striker Manucho was quiet by his standards. Even when down by two goals the urgency did not seem to be a priority for Angola and Angola coach Lito brought in Jose Vunguidica for Djalma and the change did breathe some life into the attack but the real threat for goals was still missing.

It was Ivory Coast who almost added to the score Bamba missed with his head from meters out after a flick from Lolo. At the other end Mateus wanted more time when he had a chance in Ivorian box and the delay led to recovery by defenders and Angola only got a corner.

There were a few more chances for both sides as the game opened up with Angola perhaps aware of Sudan’s lead went in search of a goal which wasn’t coming. Manucho‘s head back across goal found no taker. 

Didier Drogba came on for Ivory Coast towards the co-favourites made sure they finished top of the group on maximum points and will now meet co-hosts Equatorial Guinea in the quarter final while Sudan who edged Angola to the second place face Zambia in the other quarter final.

Pinsent Backs Welsh Rowers

Olympic great Matthew Pinsent has tipped Welsh rowers to win three medals at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Defending Olympic champion Tom James is set to lead the way for Welsh rowing in the coxless fours but Chris Bartley and Vicky Thornley are also medal hopefuls.

Bartley and Thornley won 2011 World Championship bronze in the lightweight four and women's eight respectively.

"It could be a good games as far as Welsh rowers are concerned," said four-time Olympic champion Pinsent.

Wales have only once won more than two rowing medals at an Olympics when Hugh Edwards secured gold in the coxless pairs and coxless fours at the 1932 Los Angeles Games.

The total haul of Olympic rowing medals for Wales is five, starting with Albert Gladstone's coxed eights gold in the 1908 Olympics in London.

Edwards' double in the United States was followed by a bronze for Charles Wiggin in coxless pair at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

James took gold at the 2008 Beijing Games in the coxless fours, and is bidding to become the first Welshman to successfully defend his Olympic title.

The 27-year-old starred alongside Andy Triggs Hodge, Peter Reed and Steve Williams as Great Britain's coxless fours - traditionally Britain's flagship Olympic boat - won their third successive Olympic crown in China.

James, who took a rowing sabbatical after Beijing, was the only remaining member as the Team GB four won the 2011 World Championship crown in Bled.

Reed and Triggs-Hodge were moved to the pairs, leaving James to share his new-look boat with Matthew Langridge, Richard Egington and Alex Gregory.

GB Rowing men's coach Jurgen Grobler has yet to finalise his selection plans but Olympic great Pinsent is sure James will figure in the fours.

"Tom is an outstanding oarsman and technically he is very very good," said Pinsent, who won his final two Olympic golds in the coxless four boat.

"There are guys bigger than him who pack more of a punch in power but technically he is fantastic.

"If you look at the difference he has made to the four since coming back from his break after Beijing, the boat is very smooth, very rhythmical and very efficient with him in it.

"On a rowing machine Tom might not be in the top four or six scores but you are definitely going to pick him because of his boat moving ability.

"He has a fantastic rhythm and that is one of the key ingredients for a boat so it goes quick and efficiently across the course - so I can't see him him being out of the top four."

Bartley won the 2010 World Championships in the lightweight fours but the team, which also includes Richard Chambers, Paul Mattick and Rob Williams, finished third in last year's showpiece as they were beaten by Australia and Italy despite recording a quicker time.

"For the defending world champions they felt it was a disaster," said Pinsent.

"But it is testament to their ability and expectation that they think a bronze is a disaster.

"They will be definitely looking to win in London but there is about half a length between first and sixth."

But Pinsent does not expect Thornley to be celebrating an Olympic gold medal in the women's eight final at Eton Dorney lake on 2 August.

Thornley, Alison Knowles, Jo Cook, Jessica Eddie, Louisa Reeve, Natasha Page, Lindsey Maguire, Katie Solesbury and Caroline O'Connor finished behind the United States and Canada at the 2011 World Championships in Slovenia.

"I cant see them winning the event," said Pinsent.

"But I can see them getting a silver but there are three other crews who will think we climb up here - it is a much deeper event so they are going to have to dig in."


Born: 11 March 1984 in Cardiff
Home: Wrexham
Height: 6ft 3ins
Boat: Men's four
Best Achievements: 2008 Olympic and 2011 World Championship gold

Born: 2 February 1984 in Wrexham
Home: Chester
Height: 5ft 9ins
Boat: Lightweight men's four
Best Achievements: 2010 World Championship gold and 2011 World bronze

Born: 30 November 1987 in St Asaph
Home: Wrexham
Height: 6ft 3ins
Boat: Women's eight
Best Achievements: 2011 World Championship bronze

Monday 30 January 2012

PUMA Recover After Snag

An untimely snag on a fishing net cost PUMA their position in the leaders’ pack overnight. It took the team an hour to remove and set them back 10 nautical miles.

But at 0700 UTC the team were starting to claw their way back, narrowing their gap between Team Telefónica and Groupama sailing team to six miles.

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG Media Crew Member Amory Ross reports on all of the drama:

“Yesterday I said it was going to be a make or break 24 hours. It appears now -- after a full 24 hours -- that we were headed for a breaking.

Mar Mostro pulled to within a few hundred yards of Groupama and Telefónica late yesterday, and we were able to match them for most of last night staying offshore while they chose the inshore route; at one point we might have been ahead.

Then came the hostile confrontation with a submerged net early this morning and it cost us a good hour of progress and 10 or so miles on the charts.

Far worse, while untangling the tangled we sat idle as the dwindling night winds vanished, and we now find ourselves struggling in a windless transition zone while the leaders sail away in the old breeze and the trailers catch up in the new. It is upsetting.

We are now closer to CAMPER and Abu Dhabi than we are the other two. Like I said: make or break, and we broke.

Not exactly our fault, but nonetheless, it’s another gut-wrenching setback of the likes we haven’t been able to avoid all race. Fortunately there is still a lot of track left, decisions to be made, and comebacks to be had.

Everything else on board remains relatively unchanged, or in some cases even enhanced.

It has actually found a way to get hotter -- shocking, and freeze-dried flatulence is at an all-time high. Several new challengers for supremacy have surfaced, too. I’m proud to say that I’m a boy amongst men in that contest, but it’s true, there’s something in the air (or the food) that’s taking things to a new level. Ohhhh the wonders of live on board entertainment...and it’s only day eight!

Djokovic Reflects on Historic Win

World number one Novak Djokovic has labelled his historic Australian Open win against close rival Rafael Nadal as the greatest moment of his career.

Djokovic outlasted 10-time Grand Slam winner Nadal to clinch an epic five-setter that went five hours 53 minutes.

"It was the longest Grand Slam final of all time. Just hearing that fact makes me cry," said the emotional Serbian.

"Wimbledon is right up there because it is the tournament I always wanted to win. But this comes out on top."

Defending champion Djokovic lifted the title for the third time after Sunday's 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 7-5 success against second seed Nadal.

It moved the 24-year-old alongside Andre Agassi, Roger Federer and Mats Wilander as the only Open-era players to have achieved a hat-trick of successes.

Djokovic said: "I am very proud to be a part of history, to be among the elite group of players who have won this trophy several times.

"I had lots of chances to finish the match in the fourth, but he came up with some incredible serves and incredible points.

"So he deserved to prolong the match in the fifth set, and then really both of us could have won the match.

"Even when I was 4-2 down I still pushed myself up to the limit.

"I'm sure any other tennis player would say the same. We live for these matches.

"We're trying to dedicate all our life to this sport, to come to the situation where we play a six-hour match for a Grand Slam title."

Djokovic reached the Melbourne final after overcoming breathing and injury problems in his quarter-final victory over David Ferrer.

He also appeared to struggle physically during his semi-final defeat of Britain's Andy Murray, in a match which lasted four hours 50 minutes.

But he managed to outlast Nadal in an exhausting encounter before falling to the floor in celebration following his winning point.

"I overcame everything," said the Serb. "That's the most important thing for me. And to be able to mentally hang in there.

"It was obvious on the court for everybody who has watched the match that both of us, physically, took the last drop of energy that we had from our bodies.

"It was just the matter of maybe luck in some moments and a matter of wanting this more than maybe other players in the certain point. It's just an incredible effort."

Nadal, aiming for his second Australian Open title after beating Roger Federer in the 2009 final, said the epic encounter was one of the toughest matches of his career.

"We played a nice tennis match, it was a very good show and I enjoyed being a part of it," said the Spaniard.

"I wanted to win but I am happy with how I did."

When asked if he would watch a re-run of the match, Nadal joked: "No, it's too long. Just the highlights."