“We played all our cards” to take second place in the third leg of the EDS Atlantic Challenge
Skipper Gael Le Cleac’h brought Sill across the Baltimore finish line earlier this morning just nine minutes ahead of Ecover, after 16 days crossing 3,000 miles of ocean. For the first ten days, Sill was leading comfortably and keeping Kingfisher in check but then their troubles began.
Le Cleac’h informed Race HQ on 26 July that Sill had a four-metre tear in her main. Kingfisher co-skipper Nick Moloney listened intently as that signal of hope crackled into his ears. Despite Sill’s damage, Kingfisher failed to make any ground until the following night when she moved to within three miles of Sill.
As the day dawned, it became apparent that Sill’s poor night was serious. A deck-fitted tungsten clip that secures the forestay had parted, leaving Sill a-hull for five hours while repairs were effected. Kingfisher flew past, sailed into a new system with following winds and disappeared.
Sill’s race was for second place and, with wind abaft the beam, third-placed Ecover looked at shoe-in for second. But Sill’s crew weren’t through just yet.
“The last 24 hours were pretty intense,” confirmed Le Cleac’h, “as we had been watching Ecover coming back on us quite quickly in the previous four days. They were simply eating up the miles and we got blocked by a dorsal, which meant a touch of upwind sailing for us without our Solent – not what we wanted. Then, yesterday, a small low pressure system came across the centre of the Chesapeake Bay where the finish line is and brought strong downwind conditions from the North.
“It might have been better for us but as Ecover excel in this weather, they got closer still, to three miles, and then even passed us at one point. So we decided to dig south a bit more on a great starboard tack as the wind was turning more to the north.
“They sailed too near the coastline and there we took the advantage again and just in the last four miles of the race we played all our cards. Ecover are so quick downwind, we are really happy to have beaten them to the finish.”
There is no shortage of wounds to lick on Sill but there’s no question of curling up to die. “To have lead this leg all the way and then suffer damage five days before the finish did knock us all a bit. We are confident of winning over Kingfisher for the next two legs, not because Ellen is stepping of her boat, but because Bilou the ‘boss’ is back, so we’ll go twice as fast then!”