Kingfisher has added over 80 miles to her lead overnight and assumes the mantle of favourite as the final plays are made in the third leg of the EDS Atlantic Challenge

By late afternoon US time today, Kingfisher had widened its lead over Sill to 103 miles. To explain such a gain one might recall that Sill suffered a broken forestay two days ago and has a damaged mainsail. But, in fact Sill is sailing quite well and has held pursuing Ecover off ever since Kingfisher took the lead yesterday. If Sill is still wounded she’s hiding it well.

The fact is that Kingfisher has been sailing brilliantly for the past couple of days. With good downwind conditions today she is flying. Kingfisher clocked in this afternoon with an average speed of 12.9 knots compared to Sill’s 12.3 knots. Ecover averaged just 10.3 knots for the same period.

“Well, there have been worse mornings aboard the good ship Kingfisher,” said Ellen. “We have had a mixed few hours of conditions, but now we are reaching on the north side of the east-west front which stretches away from America. We received good news today that we had slipped into first position. There was a cheer from outside!”

“We knew though that something was wrong – Sill’s position was erratic, and we were concerned why. No mainsail repair should slow her so much? Now we have heard the news we are relieved that she is still in the race.”

According to router George Caras’ latest weather forecast, the good downwind conditions for the three leading boats will extend through out the night. Being the furthest north of the three leading boats, Ecover will see the best downwind conditions last. However, he will also keep those conditions when Kingfisher and Sill nose first into an approaching high.

The high-pressure system will slip east across the path of the three boats hitting the southern two boats first. “Depending on how each boat handles this high could determine the winner of this leg,” says Caras.

To the southeast of the leaders, Josh Hall and his Gartmore team are struggling to connect with the leaders, who remain over 400 miles away to the southwest. Over the next 36 hours, Hall will have to pick a place and time to cross the Gulf Stream current. Since the current is running northeast at anywhere between two to three knots, he will be looking for a time when he has enough wind, at a good enough angle, to get through the current without being pushed north in the process.

The next two days will be critical for Hall. If something good is coming his way, it had better hurry.

Finally, the AlphaGraphics team to the far south had to be disappointed to see their DTL numbers pop back up over 900 miles again. Even though the all-woman team is sailing at a healthy 10 knots, picking their way around the bottom of the Azores High has proven a longer and more costly exercise than they had hoped. It seems almost certain now that once the first boat finishes; the AlphaGirls will still have another 1,000 miles ahead of them.

As Ecover skipper Mike Golding observed just this morning, “Sometimes this can be a cruel game.”