The final hours of the EDS Atlantic Challenge fifth and final leg will see Kingfisher, Ecover and Sill going head to head for leg victory and the overall title
This morning’s 0844 poll puts Kingfisher in the lead with just 30 miles left to run to St Malo. Kingfisher’s Australian skipper Nick Moloney will be rubber-necking right the way to the finish line with Roland Jourdain’s Sill Plein Fruit and Mike Golding’s Ecover two and three miles behind respectively.
Roland Jourdain’s Sill has moved from third to second having gained three miles on Kingfisher in the last two hours and she is carrying a knot extra boatspeed over the leader’s 4.4 knots. Ecover too has closed since the last poll, reeling in a mile on Kingfisher and holding a two-knot boatspeed advantage. Moloney will be feeling intense pressure right now as Kingfisher sails into a light spot and both boats close in.
“Our obvious objective is to try and stay between the three boats immediately astern and the finish line,” Moloney said. “This is proving to be very difficult as our opponents only come into view every three hours in the form of digits on our computer screen. It’s going to be a tough. Fingers crossed.”
Roland Jourdain and the crew of Sill have done tremendously well. Were it not for the folding mast at the start of the fourth leg, Sill would almost certainly have collected the overall title. They are still second overall, sharing 24 points with Ecover, and this having missed the fourth leg and raced the fifth nursing a very fragile spar.
“The rankings are changing in the past hours with the red torpedo coming back on the leaders,” said Sill’s co-skipper Gael Le Cleac’h. “The mood and the atmosphere are fine, are as good as you can get, and wind is coming back.”
Fila’s patchwork main has dropped her to 22 miles off the lead and with so little distance left to race, Andrea Scarabelli and his team are certain of fourth place and once alongside, they can reflect on how different things might have been with a bigger budget. As Giovanni Soldini showed the Around Alone 1998-99, Fila is both strong and fast. She was without peer in that race.
Gartmore is making circuitous progress after losing her port rudder two days ago but this morning’s poll gives Gartmore the top speed of eight knots. With a DTF of 314 miles, her Sunday ETA is looking a trifle optimistic.
At the time of the poll, Kingfisher was looking vulnerable, making 4.4 knots to Sill’s 5.4 and Ecover’s 6.4. The last few hours of this race will be creaking with tension. Barring any disasters, the overall winner will be Kingfisher but anything less than victory in this fifth leg will taste sour. Ecover and Sill, tied at present, have everything to race for.