Roland Jourdain and Ellen MacArthur have sneaked back into the lead ahead of Jean Pierre Dick on Virbac

On the ninth day of the Transat Jacques Vabre, Roland Jourdain and Ellen MacArthur onboard the Open 60 Sill et Veolia have passed the halfway mark, sailing at high speeds with only 1,730 miles to go to the finish line off Salvador de Bahia, Brazil.

At the 1500GMT positions today, the Anglo-French pairing had sneaked back into the lead by 1.9 miles ahead of Virbac Paprec – regaining the lead they lost going into day four. As the two leading Open 60s near the Equator (approximately 350 miles south), Jourdain and MacArthur are feeling the toll of high speed sailing, after clocking up 440nm in the last 24 hours. Yet, if current speeds are maintained and the frontrunners have a quick passage through the Doldrums and into the south-east Trade Winds, it opens up the possibility of a new Open 60 monohull record being set in the seventh edition of this classic two-handed race.

Currently 627 miles west of Gambia and just to the west of rivals Virbac-Paprec, Sill et Veolia continue to eat up the miles from racing legends, Jean Pierre Dick and Loik Peyron. Whilst Sill et Veolia had a relatively smooth sail past the Cape Verde Islands, Virbac lost part of their lead as they became caught in the wind shadow of Fogo. Yet, MacArthur speculated as to whether Sill et Veolia’s gains were also due to a possible gennaker problem onboard Virbac-Paprec.

In a phonecall to Offshore Challenges this morning MacArthur commented:
“We think Virbac must have a problem on board, one scenario could be that they may have broken their gennaker, which is why we are taking miles out of them at each report, For the first six days I’ve been totally exhausted. It was just the way it worked out, it seemed that every time it was my turn to rest something would go wrong, I’d come off three hours of helming to collapse…only to be a woken a few minutes later! Yesterday I fell asleep standing up! Both of us have had some kind of stomach bug which hasn’t helped, but feeling much better today finally. Whoever leads this race in to Salvador could be there as early as Friday, less than two weeks from Le Havre!”

Both boats are sailing in steady 18-knot north-easterly Trade Winds as their make their approach towards the Doldrums. However, if the current routing stays the same, the frontrunners should have a fast passage through and into the south-east Trade Winds. Their tactical choices over the next 24-48 hours will be crucial, as Sill et Veolia try to extend their lead from Virbac-Paprec. Virbac-Paprec is known for its speed, yet Jourdain and MacArthur have proved their capability to match them, both crews will have no room for error as they battle it out for the top spot.

Open 60 positions at 1500




4 ECOVER / 144.2 MILES

5. SKANDIA / 174.5 MILES