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History on the line in final leg of Volvo Ocean Race
History on the line in final leg of Volvo Ocean Race

After eight months and almost 45,000 nautical miles across four oceans, history is on the line as the Volvo Ocean Race draws to a close.

With three teams locked in a dead heat with one final, winner-take-all leg to go, New Zealand duo Peter Burling of Team Brunel and Blair Tuke of MAPFRE are both trying to become the first man to clinch the sport's equivalent of a triple crown -- Olympic gold, America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race.

"This is something I've wanted to do since I was a kid," Tuke told the Volvo Ocean Race website. "And if it culminates in me being the first to win all three, that would be amazing, but this is about me learning and developing my skills and experience as a sailor."

Respect

It has been a busy two years for the two long-term sailing partners, who teamed up to win Olympic gold in the 49er class at the 2016 Rio Olympics before helping Emirates Team New Zealand win the America's Cup last year in Bermuda.

Although Tuke, 28, said the triple crown "would be awesome to do," he stressed "at the same time, it's not my motivation. To be honest, it's more of a happy coincidence. My only objectives are to get better, make the boat go fast, and help the team win."

Just like Tuke, competing in the Volvo Ocean Race had been a long-time career goal for 27-year-old Burling, the youngest winning helmsman in America's Cup history.

"We have huge respect for each other's skill and talent and we are each other's biggest supporters," Burling said about Tuke. "We are both in a position to gain amazing experience to bring to our future sailing goals."

READ: Blair Tuke going for unprecedented triple crown

First female winner

When the seven teams leave Gothenburg in Sweden on Thursday for a final 700 nautical mile race to the Dutch coastal city of The Hague, there will also be history on the line for eight female sailors.

Following a change in the rules that encouraged mixed-gender crews, the 13th edition of the Volvo Ocean Race will crown its first female winner when the race ends on June 30.

Spain's MAPFRE and Chinese-backed Dongfeng Race Team have two female crew members each, while Holland's Team Brunel has four women on board. MAPFRE and Brunel are currently tied atop the overall leaderboard with 65 points. Although Dongfeng is one point behind, it can still win the overall race because it will receive a bonus point for the shortest elapsed time around the world if its beats the two leaders in the final leg.

Although a female winner would be groundbreaking for the race, it won't change the fact women sailors have far fewer possibilities to compete at the top outside of the Olympics compared to men.

Still, for Dongfeng's Carolijn Brouwer, becoming the first woman to win the Volvo Ocean Race would be "my ultimate goal."

"But I also hope to inspire the women, girls and young people to never think something is impossible," Brouwer told the race website shortly before the start of leg 10 in Cardiff, Wales.

READ: Where are all the women in sailing?

Limited opportunities for women

Although Brouwer, 44, is a three-time Olympian, four-time world champion and a former ISAF Sailor of the Year, she wouldn't be able to complete a triple crown because women haven't competed in the America's Cup since 1995.

There are also limited opportunities for women to race in other big events, such as the solo non-stop round-the-world yacht race Vendee Globe, which had its biggest fleet in 2016-17 but no female competitors for the first time since 1992.

"It has taken me 20 years to be able to stand here and say 'I may be one of those women who became the first female winners of the Volvo Ocean Race.'" said Brouwer.

Visit CNN.com/sport/sailing for more news and features

"That would be super. But it has taken a long time to get to this stage, and I hope in the future something that is so special now, will be something that's not even worth mentioning anymore: that a mixed sailing boat, or an all-female boat competing in the Volvo Ocean Race will become the norm, and that it's very normal for a woman to win it. I hope I can contribute to that."

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