The British/Irish pair of Golding & Hutchinson on the ‘clean-machine’ Ecover have certainly not had their last word in the battle of the Open 60 monohulls as they have shot back up to second place 80 miles behind leading red boat Sill Plein Fruit (Jourdain/Le Cleac’h). They have covered the greatest distance in the last 24 hours, 294 miles, and are speeding along at 16 knots to the West of the rhumb line into the Doldrums. Third placed Casto-Darty-BUT skippers Moloney & Turner are right on Ecover’s tail, and both teams actually saw the nav-lights of their rival cross their path last night, no doubt they may be right this moment racing in sight of each other – incredible after 3,000 miles of ocean have passed under their bows!

Marcus Hutchinson on Ecover sent a message to the Paris Race HQ over night to describe their situation: “Not a bad day for us in all. The fleet is on an East-West line heading into the Doldrums and we are furthest to the West as is Sill. I’m sure the others are envious of our position now! Sill & Casto-Darty-But have gybed several times, and around 2200hrs GMT we crossed the nav-lights of Casto to windward of us. I think they were more surprised than us and they gybed soon after. We’ve left them behind for now, we can see them on the radar 5 miles in our wake.”

Sill’s skipper Jourdain yesterday admitted to being a little nervous of Ecover, even repositioning themselves more to the West to cover the British boat even though it was then in 5th place and 150 miles behind. Mark Turner on Casto-Darty-But thinks this covering move by Sill may have been more than just that, with the Doldrums & their fickle winds looming large on the horizon. Everyone knows that west is best if they hope to cross this ‘black void’ without suffering too greatly.

Whatever the explanation, this could be the first time for several days where the lead of the Open 60 monohull fleet could be in jeopardy, as Sill gets stuck into the meteorological glue pot before the Equator.

Bilou (Jourdain) seemed calm but concentrated: “We’re right in the Doldrums now, but thankfully there is wind between the squalls, which is quite unusual, but I’m not complaining! We should be out of this in 135 miles, and we are sighing in relief that the boat speed has not dropped so badly, as the guys behind are on a roll!” Last word goes to Ecover here and hopefully on the water too: “Sill is still a long way in front but as long as no-one’s crossed the finish line there’s still all to play for out here.” Multihulls

Belgacom (Nélias/Desjoyeaux) have just reported in that they have broken their mast track. As the seas and winds build for the leading multihulls pushing hard upwind on route to the Ascensions, so does the tension. The first trimaran should reach the islands at the end of today, and Kingfisher-Foncia (Gautier/MacArthur) and Groupama (Cammas/S. Ravussin) are locked together in a match-racing battle. The Gautier & MacArthur hold the thinnest advantage of 11 miles, but more importantly they are to windward and thus in control of their rivals. Both are back on the rum line and now approx. 200 miles to the NW of the island. Their speeds in the strong winds and big seas are still remarkable – 16 knots average in the last 6 hours.

“We’ve got one reef in the main sail and staysail, the wind is pretty strong” yelled Swiss co-skipper Steve Ravussin on Groupama. “We’re soaked through and the boat pounds through the sea – not a lot of fun for us! We’ve launched a full scale attack, and are only getting one hour’s sleep when not on watch to be ready to make the slightest manouevre on deck.”

The most surprising news of the day has to be the astounding progress of Fujifilm (L. Peyron/Le Mignon). They have defied all odds by sticking to the punishing direct route in the East through the light airs of the Doldrums only to have revved back up to 16 knots and moved back into 3rd place ahead of Belgacom (Nélias/Desjoyeaux). They are head