Kingfisher’s arrived in St Malo yesterday to win the fifth leg and take the overall title in this inaugural EDS Atlantic Challenge

After almost 3,000 miles of ocean racing, the leg was to be decided over the last 30 miles, in light airs with just four miles separating first from third. Kingfisher skipper Nick Moloney’s jangling nerves were finally relieved at 1514.20 yesterday when Kingfisher ghosted out of the mist and over the line, surprising the Race Committee.

Moloney’s leg from Boston became a Road to Damascus when the top mast started moving about. The Whitbread and mini-transat veteran backed off and began to doubt his ability to do the job but the lift that propelled them back into the lead got him back on the race case and, beaming from Kingfisher’s deck, he believed he had finally justified Ellen MacArthur and Marc Turner’s faith in him and the crew.

“We are just so pleased to win this event,” he said. “For me, personally, it is a triumph and victory that I will savour for many years. It has been one of the toughest events I have ever sailed in, and to come out on top, ahead of some of these other competitors is unbelievable.

“I felt I wasn’t mature enough to take on this project. We spent one hour stewing over it, then decided to go for it, especially the last 1,000 miles. We didn’t care. And I never looked up the tube once after that. We just took it in our teeth and ran with it.”

Ellen called in from Lake Geneva where she is sailing with Vendée winner Mich Desj, multihull guru Loick Peyron and Transat record holder Bernard Stamm. “Nick and the team have done a great job. I loved every minute of sailing with them on the first three legs and I can’t wait to see them all at the prize giving on Wednesday.

“It’s been an awesome event for us, sailing with some very experienced and top sailors. It was a hard, but necessary decision to not stay onboard for the last two legs, but I know there are few people who I could leave her in the safe hands of, and I’m very lucky to be able to say that Nick Moloney was at the top of that very short list. I have incredible respect for Nick.

“It was not easy for him to join the project so soon after the Vendée. Kingfisher was almost shrine-like in appearance with all the little nik-naks in the corner of the chart table, I guess to others she still felt very much like my home. Nick took over her with such care for her past, and such enthusiasm for her future. Not only is Nick one incredibly talented racing skipper, but he is a wonderfully sensitive man, who sails not only with his head, but with his heart…”

Forty minutes after Kingfisher took the gun, a delighted Roland Jourdain’s hobbled Sill crossed the line at 1550.10. “This is why I love this sport. The sailing has been fantastic and very competitive, but most of all it’s about the people. Our team, and the crews on the other boats, they are all winners.”

Ecover crossed third at 1617.00 and Fila, sporting her tattered main, finished at 2223.05, leaving just Gartmore, less one rudder, and the aged AlphaGraphics out on the track.

Sir Chay Blyth was delighted with the event’s first outing. “The EDS Atlantic Challenge has turned out to be as spectacular as predicted, with close racing and tight competition right up to the end. We have also witnessed the extraordinary camaraderie between the skippers and crew of the Open 60 EDS yachts throughout the race, and certainly in times of extreme adversity.”