LISBON, Portugal — Vestas 11th Hour Racing has won the first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, the first time a U.S.-flagged boat has led the overall standings in the bluewater classic.

Vestas 11th Hour Racing, led by Americans Charlie Enright and Mark Towill, won the leg from Alicante, Spain, to Lisbon by about 20 miles over Spanish entry MAPFRE on Saturday.

Enright and Towill follow in the footsteps of two other American sailors who won the opening leg of the world’s premier around-the-world race.

Paul Cayard captured the first leg in the 1997-98 race, when it was called the Whitbread Round-the-World Race, while John Kostecki skippered Illbruck Challenge to the Leg 1 victory in the 2001-02 race. Both went on to win the overall title for foreign-flagged boats.

Nick Dana of Newport, RI is the third American crew member on board Vestas 11th Hour Racing.

Pre-race favorite MAPFRE was second, followed by Dongfeng Race Team, Team AkzoNobel, Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag, Team Brunel and Turn The Tide On Plastic.

Leg 2 from Lisbon to Cape Town starts a week from Sunday.

The race will cover more than 45,000 nautical miles in 11 legs.

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