Mike Golding moves up to 1st, another retirement and why Conrad Humphreys is still having a hard time

During last night, Mike Golding moved into the lead in the Open 60 class of the Route du Rhum, ahead of Roland Jourdain in Sill and Ellen MacArthur in Kingfisher. The weather continued to be very rough and unpleasant, with squalls of 50 knots, but the wind is easing now and in the next few days the boats will get a better angle and kinder temperatures.

Getting into 1st place in upwind conditions is an achievement for Golding, as his boat is not one of the better performers in these conditions. As soon as he is able to ease sheets, however, Ecover will come into her own.

The other news from this class is that Dominique Wavre on Temenos has retired after his genoa shredded. This is Wavre’s first ever retirement.

The tally of abandonments so far stands at 10. Some 41 boats are still racing, or have resumed racing after a stop for repairs. Among those back racing is Conrad Humphreys, sailing HelloMoto. In a rapid turnaround of 15 hours, his boat was hauled out and the holes repaired. He may be given redress if his appeal against Défi Vendéen succeeds.

Things are still far from easy for Humphreys, for whom this is his first solo race. He sent this report yesterday:

‘Last night was bloody hard – the breeze was shifting every 30 minutes as I tried to take the favoured tack south around Ushant. At around 4pm I noticed the starboard lazyjack had parted, leaving a long tail just below the second spreader. Within minutes the other one had failed and had wrapped itself nicely around the lazy runner. I needed to tack but couldn’t take the risk that it might snag the runner halfway through in 30 knots of wind! Nothing else to do but free climb the rig and take it down.

‘I decided to cant the rig to leeward to help me shimmy up it, which worked a treat and also depowered the mainsail. Having got that fixed, I tacked across to the south but as I swivelled the keel, I noticed it suddenly went very loose. I checked the hoses and to my horror, the forward section by the keel rams was full of leaking hydraulic oil. The keel on this boat draws 3.6m and has a two tonne lead bulb on the bottom. It was now rocking from side to side out of control.

‘I managed to get the keel centered using the pressure still left in the system. The clean up was an epic, as the hydraulic oil worked its way throughout the entire boat and forced me to move around on my hands and knees. This was okay, but on deck I needed to put in a third reef as the breeze was gusting 35 knots. Twice I slipped down the deck – the cockpit was like an ice-rink and I was losing my sense of humour as I battled with the 80 square metre mainsail with no lazy jacks to stop it going over the side. It took 4 hours to clean up the oil but what concerns me is that the mast canting system shares the same hydraulic pump.

‘Three hours later, I decided that a reduction in wind strength was perfect timing to fix the lazy jacks. Another trip up the rig, this time with some new line to attach to the flailing ends. I now see the problem – too much of the running rigging is very old and should have been replaced. I am paying the price for being low on budget for so long up to the start. I have noticed that the furling line on the big genoa is also badly worn and will need replacing and if I have enough string I will replace the solent halyard as well.’