Sill continues to extend its lead as the next low pressure system approaches the fleet from the west with the promise of fresher winds

It’s been a welcomed respite for the fleet. After two days of gale conditions that Kingfisher co-skipper Nick Moloney described as “the worst I have ever seen,” all the boats in the fleet were sailing under fair conditions. Sill and Kingfisher have both been able to tack to starboard and resume their northwesterly courses.

By 2243 GMT last night, Sill had extended its lead over Kingfisher to 75 miles and was already beginning to catch the first freshening winds of the approaching gale. Kingfisher, further south and east of Sill, had not yet reached the new wind and was sailing at 11 knots compared to Sill’s 14.6 knots.

A big split has occurred between the courses of ECOVER and Gartmore. Both boats had originally intended to sail the longer but safer southern route. However, the previous days gales forced them too far west to pursue that strategy without getting locked in the jaws of the Azores High pressure system.

As weak upwind sailors both skippers looked as though they would try to stay as far south as possible without falling into the centre of the high in order to lessen the stronger headwinds further north. However, it appears that Golding has decided to risk taking ECOVER much farther north than Hall is willing to venture.

By turning right and nearly matching the courses of Sill and Kingfisher, Golding has put ECOVER in third place, just two miles behind Kingfisher. Hall’s decision to go deeper has cost him dearly. Gartmore is now 201 miles behind the leader.

As has been the case for the past three days, Fila skipper Andrea Scarabelli continues to sail a middle course between ECOVER and AlphaGraphics. Fila still holds onto fourth, 182 miles behind the leader.

The emergency rescue of an AlphaGraphics crewmember last night cost the already tardy boat even more miles. The all-woman crew is now 605-miles behind. But, the yacht is now far enough south to benefit from downwind conditions and its most recent boat speed of nearly 12 knots indicates that the payback for all that southing is about to begin paying dividends. The crew should have downwind conditions all the way to Bermuda.

For the three boats farthest north conditions will worsen tomorrow as, beginning with Sill, each enters the next gale. Winds of 35 knots are predicted. These winds will be on the nose, which is not good news for ECOVER and may force Golding to again tack to port.