Mike Golding’s Ecover has taken the lead as the southerly option goes sour in the fifth leg of the EDS Atlantic Challenge

This morning’s poll, taken at 1043, shows Ecover is now the most northerly boat in the fleet as she follows the Great Circle route. The VMG advantage of sailing the shortest route has bumped her into first place, 11 miles ahead of Nick Moloney’s Kingfisher.

“Places are changing by the hour,” said Golding, “even though we are all near to maximum speed for these wind and sea conditions, forcing us to keep the pressure on all of the time. The risk is catastrophic, gear failure or just one mistake – easily possible when tiredness is lurking in every crew member and conditions are so near to the limit. It is fun – but undoubtedly stressful for everyone aboard.”

Although Golding’s Group Finot Open 60 is making 8.1 knots, her VMG of 10.3 was the best in the fleet when polled, even though third-placed Fila, 19 miles behind Ecover but much further south, was making 14.9 knots over the water. Sill has dropped to fourth, 59 miles behind Ecover and returned the lowest 24-hour run of the top four with 272 miles.

Kingfisher’s northerly position gives her the second best VMG – 10.2 knots – and she looks like being there or thereabouts as she has in every leg so far. Adrienne Cahalan reports in place of an exhausted Nick Moloney. “We watched ourselves get run down by Fila and Sill last night and then the wind dies and the race starts again. Our nemesis Ecover appears to the northwest of us and it’s all on again with only one mile separating us from the last poll and both of us fighting for the lead.”

The whole fleet detoured yesterday as the southwesterlies swept in, but the largest has dropped Gartmore to fifth, 135 miles behind the leader. Skipper Josh Hall seems to be hedging between the northerly and southerly strategies without feeling the benefit of either. The word ‘flyer’ will no doubt come into play in the next few days.

AlphaGraphics has taken up her traditional number six position as the aging former Fujicolor III finds itself outpaced at every turn. That said, some of skipper Helena Darvelid’s tactical decisions have fallen a little short of what one might hope for from someone of her undoubted ability and experience.

It would be hugely encouraging if AlphaGraphics’ crew could take something more than experience from this series. The girls were polled at 207 miles behind the leader this morning. Gartmore should prove a suitable carrot to chase into St Malo but to beat the British Open 60 over the line would be a victory in itself.