Kingfisher, Sill, Gartmore, Fila and Ecover are less than four miles apart almost 24 hours into the first leg the EDS Atlantic Challenge
The oppressive high pressure that has baked Britain for the last few days has given way to a shallow low pressure, and for much of the day, the fleet has been beneath the centre itself of this slow moving system and making little progress on this first leg of the EDS Atlantic Challenge.
Kingfisher, Sill, Fila, Gartmore and Ecover – with Yachting World’s Elaine Bunting onboard – have been progressing at between 2-4 knots as they make their way east along the Channel, 30 miles south of the Isle of Wight, bound for Cuxhaven in Germany. Four miles separate first place from fifth.
The fluky conditions mean that the crews have been working their way through the sail wardrobe and back, right around the clock in search of the slightest advantage. It also means the fleet is very tightly bunched, with none of the leaders wanting to hand the others the lead by missing out on any patches of breeze.
Ecover’s race has settled after a distinctly dicey start. Having found a hole approaching the leeward mark off St Malo, Ecover’s crew could only watch as she was sluiced onto the mark. No damage was sustained and the subsequent 720 penalty turn is believed to be the first ever performed by an Open 60 – Elaine’s in the record books!
Kingfisher’s start was better, but only slightly, as Ellen explains. “After the intense activity of the start (even with five on board, there is a lot to do to race in close quarters like that), we were relieved to come back on the leading three boats at Cap Frehel, having made a slight error of judgement on the sail choice for the 10 mile run to the headland. As all of us came to a grinding halt, especially Mike (thanks for moving the mark to a better line for us!), we began the new discipline of hole dodging.”
AlphaGraphics is currently sixth, 43 miles off the lead while La Rage de Vivre, the vintage Open 60 with the minimal budget, is currently last. Their sail options are more restricted that the rest of the fleet and skipper Loic Pochet admits that morale onboard has taken a bit of a battering.
As they move gently away from the centre of the low, the fleet can expect wind to fill from the east, bringing headwinds for the stretch to Dover. According to Kingfisher’s latest figures, they are now making 10 knots heading 48°, suggesting that they have indeed found new breeze.