Kingfisher blasted out of the blocks, followed by Ecover and a rejuvenated Gartmore while Sill Plein Fruit, her mast restored, located a sandbar off Boston Harbour
Yesterday’s noon start off Boston began the final chapter of what has been an eventful inaugural EDS Atlantic Challenge. With assorted gripes forgotten in the bonhomie of delaying the start to allow Sill to fix her broken mast and take part, the serious business of yacht racing begins again.
Kingfisher made the pick of the starts, haring out of the blocks under Nick Moloney’s skippership while Ellen practices her 60ft trimaran sailing in Europe on Alain Gautier’s Foncia. Sill, her usual racing partner, parked up on a sandbar just outside the Harbour and eventually started 11 minutes late.
As Kingfisher began to open a lead, Ecover and Gartmore, both expected to fair very well in the offwind conditions prevailing on this leg, chased hard but it was Fila and Sill that made the first strategic gambit of this leg.
Gartmore skipper Josh Hall was on good form. “So far leg five has not been at all what the holiday brochure described. No following winds, rain, a grey sea and thick fog. We want our money back.”
Three hours after the start, as Kingfisher followed the rhumb line to sail the shortest distance, Andrea Scarabelli’s Fila and Roland Jourdain’s Sill sailed a southeasterly course, presumably hoping to hook into a band of strong southwesterlies and accelerate towards St Malo where this leg will finish.
Naturally this course has knocked their figures but if they do find the southwesterlies first, they will both take off. It’s a big ‘if’. Race router Tom Mattus hasn’t seen whatever Jourdain and Scarabelli have seen. “I really don’t know what they are doing down there,” said Mattus. “All I can think is that they are trying to get some help from the Gulf Stream current.”
Jourdain’s routing has been impeccable throughout the EDS Atlantic Challenge and if he’s heading down there, there will be wind. The latest forecast expects the lighter weather to continue today before a fast-moving system moves north over the fleet, bringing strong northeasterlies to Sill and Fila before finding the rest of the fleet within two hours.
Jourdain also has to remember that his mast has been hastily sleeved and will not stand the sort of punishment the other Open 60s will be able to dish out to their spars. Jourdain and Scarabelli could be sailing southeast simply to avoid the headwinds that proved so damaging on the third leg.
Onboard Kingfisher, skipper Nick Moloney is happy with the situation and expecting more favourable conditions soon. “We have a southwesterly swell running at the moment,” said Moloney. “That means that the new breeze can’t be too far off.”
As far as the Sill and Fila strategy goes, Moloney is experienced enough to know that his own race must come first. “We have a strategy and plan to stick with it. However if we see the boats to the south getting away we might have to have a rethink. Only time will tell.”
Meanwhile, at 1345 this afternoon, Kingfisher led by 19 miles from Gartmore with Ecover a mere three miles further back. AlphaGraphics has also opted to follow the conventional rhumb line route and is occupying fourth place, 32 miles off the lead and keeping up well with the younger Open 60s.
Fila and Sill were 57 and 61 miles respectively behind Kingfisher at the last poll and still heading southeast and sailing within sight of each other.