Kingfisher has made it past the wounded wing of Sill to take the lead in the third leg of the EDS Atlantic Challenge

Sill skipper Gael le Cleac’h must have known, as soon as he mentioned that his main was split from foot to second reef, that his lead was slipping away. Aside from the obvious performance implications – made all the more critical by the upwind conditions – the fillip given to Kingfisher’s crew by the news was immeasurable. The hunt was on.

Ellen MacArthur, her Australian co-skipper Nick Moloney and their crew hauled Kingfisher into a three-mile lead by 1444 today. Sill’s misery may not end there: Mike Golding’s Ecover has taken nearly 15 miles off her deficit since this morning and currently lies a mere 51 miles off Kingfisher’s stern.

Entering the final stages of this third leg, skippers and crews have become decidedly circumspect about sharing their tactical thoughts with the public. All the weather patterns are now ‘very difficult to read’ said MacArthur, while Golding’s ‘That would be telling’ and le Cleac’h’s unavailability complete the collection of poker faces.

Gartmore has a while to consider her approach yet, being a shade over 300 miles adrift of third place. Her middle path has raised a few eyebrows but skipper Josh Hall explained: “We had to do something different. Unlike Sill and Kingfisher we don’t go to windward very well and so beating them would have been very difficult. Instead we have chosen to go our own way. We studied the weather carefully before taking this track and our intention is still to win this race. Given some luck I believe we can.”

From the shore, it looks like AlphaGraphics will provide Hall’s main competition: “We are still holding onto a hope that when we consolidate with the others we will be close enough to beat them,” said skipper Helena Darvelid. “AlphaGraphics has been averaging close to ten knots, and with the other boats making slow progress to windward, who knows what will happen when we get closer to the US?”

The leading yachts are speculating on a Tuesday 31 July arrival in Baltimore but this race is still very far from over.