It could be the burst main or the sheer pressure Kingfisher is exerting from astern, but Sill’s lead was reduced by 28 miles overnight

With the smell of injured Frenchman filling their nostrils, Ellen, co-skipper Nick Moloney and the crew of Kingfisher are straining every fibre to squeeze past Sill and deny her a third straight leg win in the EDS Atlantic Challenge. Sill’s lead is a scant five miles and dropping by the hour.

For their part, Sill’s crew aren’t in any mood to see their hard-won lead snatched from them at this stage, a little over 1,000 miles from the Baltimore finish. Skipper Gael le Cleac’h is slamming the door each time Kingfisher tacks and their brinkmanship saw both boats halfway up Cabot Strait, between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, before tacking back out onto the Grand Banks again.

Both boats are racing to position themselves to the south of a string of moderate lows spinning east out of New England. If they can make it, they will find 25-35 knot southwesterlies that invite the leaders to stay on starboard until Sable Island is on the starboard quarter, then tack back in, towards Cape Cod, to avoid the full effects of the Gulf Stream.

It is possible, looking at last night’s detour, that Cleac’h is hoping to delay Kingfisher so much that Ecover – now only 64 miles off the lead – can take the lead. Her collection of third places is less threatening to Sill’s overall campaign that Kingfisher’s second places and would constitute effective damage limitation if he can keep the lid on Ellen. Overnight however, with Kingfisher now looming large over their transom, that scenario has become much less likely.

Gartmore is still ploughing a lonely furrow in mid-Atlantic, 421 miles from the leaders and 1,520 miles from Baltimore. She is in the path of a low carrying strong southwesterlies and she’ll be pounding upwind on port for much of today.

On AlphaGraphics, life couldn’t be better, particularly for apprentice WOB Asia Pajkovska. They are making steady progress downwind with the tradewinds stretching their sails. With the leaders now otherwise engaged, the girls have made up 80 miles on yesterday’s Distance-To-Leader figure, now standing at 916 miles.

They are reeling in the 500 miles that separate them from Gartmore and may take fourth place from her before reaching Baltimore, but in their comparatively old boat, winning this leg is surely beyond them.