Fila’s main has blown again and while they are back up to speed now, their downtime has allowed Ecover to take the lead as the fifth leg of the EDS Atlantic Challenge enters its final phase

The fifth leg of the EDS Atlantic Challenge is being led by Mike Golding’s Ecover after a split main onboard Andrea Scarabelli’s Fila forced them to drop the main and effect repairs. Scarabelli had previously expressed doubts about the integrity of his mainsail after a four-metre tear was repaired in Boston.

Golding’s lead is well-deserved. The husbandry with which he and his crew have treated Ecover means that all systems are go and she’s running to full capacity, 15 knots at 0744 this morning. Her lead over Fila is still a slender four miles but a half-knot speed differential should see that figure increase gradually today.

With her repair effected, Fila is back on the pace making 14.6 knots and equaling Ecover’s 12.4 knot VMG, but 24-hour runs of 430 miles, like she recorded prior to the tear, are no longer possible. The position of the tear prohibits patching or sewing, so the Italian’s have been laying up their own sail cloth, as Scarabelli explains: “We took the mainsail down for four hours then we cut out the fabric and made a web of lines. The weather forecast says light winds, so I hope we can manage,” he added. “We are going just a little slower, but we can’t put too much tension on the boom and the halyard.”

She is still the most northerly boat at 50.54N with Kingfisher just below her, 58 miles further from St Malo than the Italian entry. Ecover is slightly further south, her longer course explaining the VMG differential.

Sill is still well south at 49.47N and this is knocking her VMG down to 11.6 knots despite her 14.5 knot speed at 0744 this morning. Concerns over the durability of their collapsible mast have haunted them throughout this leg but they too have been kitted out with a soft pair of kid gloves and the stick is still standing and pulling well. She is 153 miles off the lead.

Further back, Gartmore was making 14.8 knots this morning after a day of full-on blasting. This is too little, too late in terms of leg victory but it has kept her in distant touch with the leaders from 302 miles behind. AlphaGraphics’ obsession with the south has dropped her right off the bottom of the pack and she is now 755 miles off the lead and over 400 miles away from any sort of joust with Gartmore.

“We have got ourselves into a bit of a high pressure and this was not by choice,” said skipper Helena Darvelid. “We were not fast enough and lost the low in front of us.”

Their 1993-vintage boat has been around a bit as Fujicolor III. Perhaps Darvelid knows enough about its structural shortcomings to keep out of the race-winning northern latitudes. Their strategies throughout the series suggest that, for some reason, they are unable to sail the most competitive course and this is disappointing – such high profile opportunities to compete against the sport’s best aren’t common.