Ellen MacArthur, Nick Moloney and the crew of Kingfisher are leading Sill by a single mile in the third leg of the EDS Atlantic Challenge

Thousands of spectators lined the shore and churned up the waters off Portsmouth yesterday to watch the 1730 start of the third leg of the EDS Atlantic Challenge. Josh Hall’s Gartmore won the start by two boatlengths from Ellen MacArthur’s Kingfisher with Helena Darvelid and the girls of AlphaGraphics crossing third.

Gael Le Cleac’h, skipper of Sill in Roland Jourdain’s absence, was over early and had to complete a 720 turn before following the fleet west up the Solent. Ecover eased into a lead at the turning mark off Cowes and pulled clear of Kingfisher, second, and Gartmore, third, as they raced past the Needles and west into the Channel.

By 0200 this morning, Kingfisher was back on terms and leading by a single mile from second placed Sill as the fleet headed southwest into the Western Approaches at 9-10 knots. Mike Golding’s Ecover is five miles behind Sill while Andrea Scarabelli’s Fila was four miles further behind, winning its battle with Gartmore by a mile.

The westerly Force 3 will back into the south and build to Force 4 during the day as the high pressure dominating our weather is pushed onto the continent by a shallow low approaching from the Atlantic. Stronger lows are following and the race’s routing consultant believes that gale force westerly winds will test the fleet within the first few days.

The fourth leg, a sprint from Baltimore to Boston, starts on 5 August.