Ecover is still leading the Open 60 fleet but Fonica, after an excellent start this morning, is now at the tail end of the Open 60 multihull fleet

Mike Golding and Brian Thompson aboard Ecover are still leading the Open 60 fleet and have, over the past few hours, increased their lead to 14 miles on Virbec (Jean-Pierre Dick and Nicolas Abiven). They have also decided to take a route further west, and the other boats in the top six are now following a similar line.

Despite increasing their lead however, Team Ecover still have concerns about Virbec’s speed. Golding commented from the boat this morning: “What’s been interesting is the rise of Virbac, we watched her from way back when she was a couple of places behind and she gained in the Bay of Biscay so much, it was impressive to watch. This is something Jean-Pierre has done in other races and we were pretty concerned at how close she was getting. We had to look hard at how we were sailing as this is a new boat too, and it pushed us into a situation where we had to find more speed, which we did, and even pulled out a little more, a strange incident for us.”

Although still in front Golding is naturally concerned about what’s happening behind, adding: “We’re more concerned with the spread and position of the boats now as we will begin to get different weather amongst us. We are crossing a high pressure ridge which will lead us to some westerlies, and it’s more a question of who suffered worse in the ridge. The next system is coming across rapidly, so you never know what will happen. Once we’re in the westerlies the breeze will ease off and shift allowing us to go on port tack for a short time and then back on to starboard into more westerly winds. Not too long until we’re able to dry off and get warm I hope!”

Those at the front of the Open 50 fleet are currently weathering their second storm of the race. Storagetek (Regis Guillemot and Olivier Salnelle) holds a 23-mile lead over Hellomoto (Conrad Humphreys and Paul Larsen) but reports from the boats show things are look fairly bad as they head south past Finisterre. At midday today Conrad Humphreys reported they’d just taken the main down and are currently sailing the boat under storm jib. “We knew it was coming and prepared well for another pounding. The important thing is the boat – we’ve been pushing hard but now we need to see her safely through this and into those forecast north-westerlies, hopefully sometime tomorrow. Then we’ll be off like a robber’s dog!” he said. There are still concerns however, aboard Hellomotto about their failed autopilot. Commenting on the problem Humphreys added: “For two, independent systems to fail so soon is almost unbelievable. We’ll have another go at fixing them after this storm but if we can’t, Paul and I are likely to end up hand-steering 24 hours a day. Sleep is precious enough as it is but we’ll hardly be able to even take a pee without waking the other person to come on deck… Thank god for chocolate and my mum’s flapjacks!”

Fonica (Alain Gautier and Ellen MacArthur) led off the Open 60 multihull startline from Le Havre earlier today but just a few hours in to the race they are now at the tail end of the fleet, 16 miles astern of Geant (Michel Desjoyeaux and Herve Jan), the leading boat in the fleet. The fleet is now heading towards Barfleur 57m away, then Cap Hague 22m further down the coast. They are expected to enter the Atlantic tonight.