Rubicon is the Sticking to a westery option, Sill Plein Fruit (Jourdain) is leading the second leg of the Regata Rubicon

Since the first set of position reports this morning at 0300hrs and the most recent at 0900hrs GMT, the only boat maintaining consistency in ranking out of the six Open 60 yachts racing the second leg of the Regata Rubicon is the leader Sill Plein Fruit (Jourdain), who has stuck out his westerly option throughout the changeable conditions and attacking strategy of the other boats close behind.

‘Bilou’ and his boys are, this morning, 50 miles to the west of El Jadida after flirting with the coast during the night, and still pushing out more miles every two hours from the rest of the boats. West is best for him in the continuing upwind 15 – 20 knot north-easterly winds. Gibraltar lies just over 1,000 miles away to the north

“We’ve got the best brand of engine as a boat!” Bilou joked this morning at 0500hrs radio chat. “Seriously, though, we’re pretty chuffed with what we pulled off yesterday – the guys on Kingfisher must be green around the gills! We had to skirt the coastline yesterday but I wanted to keep the left-hand side of the playing field in my control too. We all fell into a light patch, and yet as we were perhaps half a mile to the west of Kingfisher, when the wind filled in from the west we took our foot off the brakes first and the others took a while to get moving again.”

Currently the other skipper following this westerly strategy is Dominique Wavre on Temenos, who yesterday was just 10 miles from the coast, and this morning is to be found 60 miles offshore, but a whole 63 miles behind the leading boat at the back of the fleet now.

In centre field, the three main players have changed throughout this morning alone: Kingfisher (Moloney) and Tiscali Global Challenge (Bianchetti) have been spending the small hours both playing off each other and the varying wind conditions 40 miles offshore, respectively second and fourth at 0500hrs GMT. Skipper Nick Moloney reported that it has been in short “a very difficult time for us”, whereas Simone Bianchetti explained, “we lacked enough information to take any other option, and didn’t want to risk the hazards of fishing boats and nets nearer the coast.” The third boat, the injured Virbac (Dick), is now unfortunately out of touch with the leaders as their progress is continually affected by their damaged mast track.

However, the sparring partners have swapped, and it’s the turn of Bobst Group – Armor Lux (Stamm) to tack back into the action and squeeze the gap on Tiscali Global Challenge to just 2.3 miles now respectively in third and fourth at 0900hrs GMT. Meanwhile Kingfisher removes herself from close contact with the Italian boat and pursues her course on port tack nearer to land, but maintaining her second place in the rankings relative to the direct route.

Always the most entertaining, is the Swiss skipper Bernard Stamm himself, who has yo-yoed from second to fourth to third place in the last six hours, first succeeding on his inshore course to benefit from the thermal land breezes overnight, and now heading back out on starboard after a rather lucky escape from a fishing net caught around his keel this morning. “There have been so many incremental wind shifts to the left and right all along the coastline, which we have been playing to our advantage. It was a risk being so close to chore, as we did trap a fishing net, but fortunately it came free of its own accord. But I prefer to try something different when the others are ahead instead of following the pack, and it’s been a more interesting tactic for us up until now.”

And as for this infamous westerly flux due to release the fleet from this purgatory of close hauled crunching. Bilou concludes: “Well, I can’t see it for the moment, we will pick it up just a little before Gibraltar, so for the meantime it’s another helping of the same upwind stuff on the menu!”