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ALICANTE, Spain (Reuters) - The Volvo Ocean Race fleet survived a mid-Indian Ocean rendezvous with a tropical cyclone to continue their progress toward their Leg 2 destination of Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
Several international weather forecasters had warned race organizers that a cyclone was heading toward the seven boats of the global ocean race near Mauritius and Réunion Island.
However, by the time the fleet met the weather system in the early hours of Saturday morning, it had lost much of its power and been downgraded from cyclone to tropical depression.
Gusts of up to 35 knots were still experienced but it was not the boat-breaking storm the crews had feared.
Leaders MAPFRE (Spain) were able to use the power of the gusts to surge 14 nautical miles (nm) clear of the rest of the fleet before the chasing pack also enjoyed the wind boost to sail at an average of 25 knots.
The Spanish have a point to prove in this stage after finishing last in Leg 1 from Alicante, Spain to Cape Town behind winners, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.
The fleet is midway through a 5,200nm stage from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi on the second of nine legs in the nine-month marathon offshore race. They are expected to arrive in the Emirates around Dec. 13.
In all, they will cover 38,739nm and visit 11 ports before the race finishes in Gothenburg, Sweden on June 27 next year.
Latest placings (0640 GMT, Nov. 29): 1 MAPFRE (Spain), 2 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, 3 Team Brunel (Netherlands), 4 Dongfeng Race Team (China), 5 Team Vestas Wind (Denmark), 6 Team Alvimedica (Turkey/U.S.), 7 Team SCA (Sweden)
Editing by John O'Brien