A broken forestay has forced Fila to retire from the third and fourth legs of the EDS Atlantic Challenge

Late last night, Fila skipper Andrea Scarabelli contacted Race HQ to inform them that Fila was retiring from the third and fourth legs of the EDS Atlantic Challenge after their outer forestay broke.

“There was a big bang,” said Scarabelli, before going on to explain that a new aluminium tang fitted just before the start of the race had failed. Fila immediately bore away and jury-rigged a halyard to stop the mast collapsing. All sail was dropped and crew Massimo went over the side to unhank the genoa.

“We have checked the damage and with the inner-forestay and two halyards on the bow we can keep the mast up,” added Scarabelli. “At the moment we have the staysail and three reefs on the main and we are quite confident that we can sail to Boston and try to get everything fixed for the start of the fifth leg. It is a pity the way things are going.”

Elsewhere in the fleet, there was genuine regret that Fila is out of the next two legs. “We’ve been having a great sailing race with them,” said Gartmore skipper Josh Hall. “I feel very sad that we are beating her through gear failure.”

The threat of gear failure is ever-present on these ocean-going F1 cars. Helena Darvelid, AlphaGraphics skipper, said that at the start of every watch, she goes through the entire boat so she knows “how the boat is looking at all times.” Although she doesn’t go aloft every day, she said that she checks the fittings through binoculars and feels “very confident” that everything is in good shape.

While AlphaGraphics is sailing west in warm, squally 10-15 knot northeasterly tradewinds, the northern section of the fleet is closing on Grand Banks, an area made notorious by The Perfect Storm. The confluence of the cold Labrador and warm Gulf Stream currents produces a thick ‘mizzle’ but according to Ellen MacArthur on Kingfisher, visibility is up to a mile making ‘berg watch possible – none so far but as Ellen said, “It’s going to be messy, worse than the seas off Ireland.”

On Ecover, Mike Golding and his crew are still closing inexorably on Kingfisher and Sill. “Forced now on the inshore going tack we are balancing the risks of gains overall against the prospect of losing touch with the two boats ahead,” said Golding this morning. “The next 48 hours will be crucial for us. We need the wind to do what is forecast to enable us to sneak around Cape Race without needing to take a painful unfavoured tack offshore to clear the corner.

“The current forecast includes a period of strong (25-40 knot) headwinds followed by either light downwind sailing inshore of the Gulf Stream or upwind against the flow. On the face of it this would seem good for us, but I fear that we have not positioned ourselves now as well as we might have – the success of our strategy really depends on what happens over the next 48 hours.”

At 1050 this morning, Kingfisher was 32 miles behind Sill with Ecover a mere 16 miles further back. Fila, retired, is 341 miles behind the leader with Gartmore just over 400 miles adrift. The girls on Alphagraphics have been stymied throughout by light winds and they are 1,049 miles off the lead.

In response to questions about his course, Gartmore skipper Josh Hall explained that he was in an all-or-nothing situation. “We’re having a crack at winning this thing,” said Hall before pointing that fourth place was fourth place, whether by a minute or a week, and he wants third. “It’s a challenge, but we like challenges.”