Despite a litany of gear failure, Sill Plein Fruit has managed – just - to stay ahead of Ecover and confirm her second place in the third leg of the EDS Atlantic Challenge

Sill has managed to salvage second place in the third leg of the EDS Atlantic Challenge. With main damage, a dodgy forestay and any number of other attritional injuries, she was not expected to resist the Ecover’s charge for long but this morning at 0458 GMT, Sill crossed the finish line at Baltimore with Ecover nine minutes behind.

“We are pretty relieved to beat Ecover,” said Sill skipper Gael Le Cleac’h. “This morning we thought that we might not be able to stay in front of them, especially with a damaged forestay, but the conditions were okay for us. Fortunately the wind stayed from behind and we didn’t need our headsail, otherwise the result might have been different.”

Having won the first two legs, Sill began as favourite in the third and, apart from missing a turning mark off Cowes shortly after the start, she never put a foot wrong. Kingfisher’s relentless chase seemed doomed to failure until news came of a four-metre horizontal tear in Sill’s mainsail, followed shortly by more about their forestay.

Hobbled upwind, she was powerless to prevent Kingfisher passing, as she did with alacrity on 26 July. Once she had however, the wind veered into the north and Sill’s fortunes revived, allowing her to sail near potential without endangering the mast. Ecover could only follow the spritely invalid and watch as she finished

The last few days, indeed the entire 3,000-mile crossing, will have been extremely frustrating for Golding. “Sure we are disappointed,” said. “At one point this afternoon we were ahead of Sill with both boats gybing downwind, but in the end they beat us. We gave this race everything and I am happy with third place. There was not much more we could have done racing against boats that perform better to windward.”

As 1043 this morning, Gartmore was 214 miles distant and making 13 knots for Baltimore, where he is expected early Wednesday morning. The girls of AlphaGraphics were 800 miles from Baltimore and approaching at a more sedate pace, in keeping with their southern routing for this race.

The fourth leg starts on 6 August and sails to Boston. The final leg returns to St. Malo, France where the first yachts are expected to finish the race between 23-26 August.