With less than 100 miles to go after six intense days of sailing around the British Isles, Ecover and Sill et Veolia are still neck and neck
With less than 100 miles to go after six intense days of sailing around the British Isles, Ecover and Sill et Veolia have been jockeying for pole position all afternoon, Golding just slipping 0.8 miles behind at the 1400 GMT ranking.
Any advantage is governed by the precision of the incessant manoeuvres on deck, the course through the sand banks and currents, and the vagaries of the 35 knot south-westerly wind. Slightly set back, Virbac-Paprec, is still very much in the match though with a deficit of just 18.6 miles on its predecessors.
Since last night the 60 footers have been furiously tacking their way down towards the mouth of the Thames river, the progress towards the goal of Calais slowed by their zig-zagging course, the tactical options opening up. Vigilance and concentration is paramount in these closing stages, each navigator pouring over the latest weather charts looking for a short cut to the finish. The results of this first event in the IMOCA calendar may well be decided in light winds on Sunday morning but only tomorrow can reveal the successor to Vincent Riou. British hope, Ecover, have dominated this second edition of the Calais Round Britain Race, but Golding has only ever had his sights on Gold.
Only third-placed Virbac-Paprec could be contacted at today’s morning and afternoon radio session, adding to the suspense of this Calais Round Britain Race. We can all well imagine the atmosphere aboard the three boats though, as they try to hunt down the path to glory through the strong currents, the wind shifts and the maritime traffic that block their way to tomorrow’s finish in Calais on the north-east coast of France. “It is all on now, this is going to be a great finish to a great race. We are not expecting to get any sleep between now and the finish in Calais tomorrow. It is going to be exciting as we try to stay between Sill and the finish line. We are very evenly matched at the moment. We had a good lead at one point and now it is down to this,” said Brian Thompson (Ecover) as regards their 1.1 mile lead at the 1000 GMT ranking, a position they have held since the morning of 26 May. “We can stay with them in the daylight just now but it will be tough after dark.” “We are very similarly matched for speed. We are bashing upwind with much more wind than we expected, 30 knots at the moment, and we have just crossed them again with them going inshore.” Brian believes it will be upwind all the way to the Straits of Dover with a reach to the finish at Calais. It may even get down to a drag race for the finish line. “It’s been non-stop action all the way round. And it’s very definitely not over yet,” concluded Thompson.
Contacted by his shore crew, Jean-Luc Nélias on Sill et Veolia agreed with the intensity of the match-racing. “We are battling it out with Ecover, 500m from each other. It’s intense! We have just tacked and rolled in the solent as the wind has kicked back in and is now blowing at around 30 knots. We are sailing under trinquette and are going to put in a reef. This evening the wind will drop off considerably with the arrival of the ridge of high pressure. We are 105 miles from Calais but our ETA will depend on the currents and the little wind we’ll have left to make Pas-de-Calais. Perhaps at dawn tomorrow.”