Mike Golding and team aboard Ecover lead Calais Round Britian and Ireland Race as they head down east coast

Despite the abandonment of Bonduelle, Jean le Cam’s bright yellow Open 60 which lost her mast in boat breaking conditions last night off the Shetland Islands, the Ecover crew still have a race on their hands.

As the wind has eased off back to just 8-9 knots this morning for some intense, tactical downwind sailing Ecover has a lead of just 3.6 miles this morning, while Jean Pierre Dick’s Virbac is still 41 miles behind in third.

“At least we are guaranteed a podium place,” mused Ecover crewman Brian Thompson this morning as Ecover sailed level with Aberdeen and Peterhead. “I have mixed feelings really because this has changed the depth of the field. To be honest this has turned into something of a race of attrition, which I did not really expect it to be.

“The Open 60 races I have done mostly about 80-90 per cent of the boats finish. Maybe something just reached its half life after the Vendee but this has been a pretty rough trip all in all. It’s not the way you’d like to win but I guess that I am quite used to it after the Oryx Cup race where half the fleet had to retire. You just have to accept that it is part of the game and as long as no-one gets hurt then it happens,” continued Thompson.

Thompson was on the helm and was taking regular bearings on Bonduelle to see if she was catching them. They were about a mile and a half behind when they disappeared suddenly off their horizon. “There were some rain showers around and I thought they might have disappeared into a shower. I called down to Mike and suggested they might have lost their rig, because there was 38 knots of wind and big seas. The seas wrap round Shetland and were meeting the wind swell so it was very confused. We were doing about 14 knots at the time. I gather they just jumped off a big wave and heard a crack.

“Everything is perfect on board here though. We still have a race on our hands with Sill. They have come back a bit in the reaching but with more downwind sailing ahead I hope we will be able to hold them off. They are a little quicker reaching because of their sail plan but so far we have been quicker downwind in 15-20 knots.”

Brian’s assessment is that the wind will drop and swing from the nort-west round to the east and then back again to the south-west. “We are reasonably happy with where Sill is at the moment, we will just have to see what happens,” he concluded.