Two Brits in the top three Open 60s, new and old head to head in the trimaran fleet, and why detecting the yachts’ positions is anything but elementary

Experience is already showing in the Open 60 fleet of the Route du Rhum as the top three slots have been claimed by the favourites. Roland Jourdain, sailing Sill, was in 1st place this afternoon, closely followed by Mike Golding on Ecover, 11 miles behind and Ellen MacArthur on Kingfisher, another 2 miles behind Golding. Less than a mile behind her is Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac who, although a newcomer to the circuit, has had a consistently successful season.

With such tiny margins separating the boats, the rankings may already have changed by the time you read this. But seeing two Britons in the top three is an unusual experience and, with no apologies for being partisan, long may it last! Miranda Merron, sailing UUDS, is very unlikely to catch the leaders but is also doing well in 8th position. UUDS is a 10 year old design and has no forward ballast tanks, so an upwind start won’t have suited her.

In the 60ft multihull fleet, there has been action in abundance. Thomas Coville is currently leading, but Francis Joyon’s Eure & Loir is in hot pursuit close behind. They are probably within sight of one another.

What makes this a particularly interesting match is that Sodebo, a new, state-of-the-art boat, is under threat from one of the oldest ORMA 60 trimarans. Again, it’s early days, but Joyon won the 2000 OSTAR in Eure et Loir, very much against expectations. Since then the boat has been ‘upgraded’ with a new rig for better downwind performance – in fact, she has a wingmast identical to Sodebo’s.

As for working out relative positions, the organisers must be hoping we have our dividers handy – again. These are coming in awfully useful these days for race websites that won’t produce a bog standard position map without fancy plug-ins to try the patience. It’s a bit like us printing a magazine in invisible ink and expecting you to go out and get lemon juice.

Until now, the Around Alone site’s been my favourite (microfiche macramé instructions posing as a position map) but the Route du Rhum’s is even better. Check out the satellites whirling overhead and the little magnifying glass so you can try out a spot of sleuthing while you conduct a worldwide wait or work out how to download Flash. Try as I might, I haven’t yet been able to spot any boats, but I’m enjoying playing North Atlantic Cluedo.