LG FLATRON, once considered to have an invincible lead, is trailed by Compaq by just five points. Seven points separate Compaq from BP, with Logica another five points astern. There, and elsewhere in the fleet, determination is strong to protect position and jump up a notch or two wherever possible.

Will Oxley, skipper of Compaq, with 75 points overall after winning Leg Six, said his strategy is the same for the next leg as it has been for every other one. “We just have to win it. Now all the pressure’s on Conrad Humphreys (skipper of LG FLATRON).”

LG FLATRON has 80 points following an eighth place finish in the leg from Cape Town, South Africa to La Rochelle, France. “We can’t do any better than win the leg and see where the points stack,” added Oxley. “Anything else is far too complicated. Our objective is to win this leg and we’re going to go all out to do that.”

But Oxley noted he is one of two skippers who are not UK-based and he may suffer a disadvantage with regard to local knowledge. “My focus over the last week has been to minimise that: speak to as many people I can until I know every rock from here to the Solent.”

Logica skipper Jeremy Troughton hinted that Compaq is still within their sights. “Mathematically we can actually still get second but Compaq do need to finish outside the top 11 — with us in first place!”

Logica improved their overall standing from fifth to fourth with a second-place finish in Leg Six. They’re 12 points behind Compaq – but Troughton isn’t dreaming. “We know that’s possible — so many things can happen and go wrong.”

He’s confident the yellow boat can bypass BP and leapfrog up to third. Logica has 63 points to BP’s 68.

“There are only three boats that have been on the podium three times,” in the Challenge, Troughton said. “That’s us, LG FLATRON and BP. We’re happy with the way we’re sailing the boat: we’re sailing extremely fast at the moment, making some good tactical calls. We’re pushing for third.”

But Troughton knows it won’t be easy. “We need to win the leg obviously, that would be the goal. But unfortunately we need BP to finish in fifth or lower, which is very possible because it’s going to be quite close out there. We’re going to need a little bit of luck for BP to sail down that far.”

“I think BP will try and stay close to us – as long as they finish within five places of us, their third place is safe. That’ll be their tactic I’m sure,” Troughton speculated. “We’ll effectively sail our own race – and try and keep away from them, get as many boats between us as possible, and go fast.”

BP skipper Mark Denton knows Logica is on the attack. “They’re five points behind us. It’s a reasonable cushion but by no means safe,” Denton remarked. He said the team had taken a close look at what they want from the race. “A podium position for BP Explorer, considering our trials and tribulations coming out of Buenos Aires, would be an enormous achievement.”

Denton revealed that BP will focus on consolidating their third place position. “We’re very much in the groove. At the end of the last leg we really pushed hard and sailed the boat really well; that’s what got us back past Isle of Man.”

And will BP try to oust Compaq? Denton said the two teams are so similar with regard to sailing ability and tactics, it would be naive to think they could merely zip past. “We won’t go all out, at the cost of losing third place to Logica, to chase Compaq.”

Troughton also recognised that Logica needs to fend off an upset by Quadstone, who trails by five points. “We really need to maximise with a win because there are boats behind us. Even our fourth position isn’t safe. It’s all very tight in that group. So effectively we’re quite keen to do as well as we can on this leg.”