EDS Atlantic Challenge leader dismasted and out, accusations of cheating hang over others, and is it now a one-horse race?

Less than an hour after the start of the EDS Atlantic Challenge leg from Baltimore to Boston on Monday, the overall leader, Roland Jourdain’s Open 60 Sill, was dimasted. He and his crew have since retired to Norfolk, Virginia, where they are working out how to get the boat back to France.

The dismasting happened in light winds, but the reason is, as yet, unclear, Jourdain commented. “We were racing in 10-12 knots of wind when the mast broke. The water was quite smooth. Some of the crew noticed that the mast was moving a bit before it broke, but then all of a sudden it seemed to collapse at the lower shroud, then at the junction of the babystay, and then as it crashed down it broke again at the top of the mast.”

This follows Sill’s forestay breakage on the previous transatlantic leg from Portsmouth.

Not only is this disastrous for Jourdain, who will now have to have a new mast built for the Transat Jacques Vabre in November, but it has also diluted the excitement of EDS Atlantic Challenge. With the fleet thinned to four yachts, an overall win for Kingfisher is almost guaranteed. Since the results are counted by points, the crew could even weather serious gear failure. They would actually have to retire from one of the two remaining legs to be displaced from 1st. Or lose a protest and be disqualified from a leg?

And as it happens, Josh Hall has threatened to withdraw if a fair hearing is not given to his accusations that Ecover (Mike Golding) and Kingfisher (Ellen MacArthur & Nick Moloney) broke race rules during the last leg by receiving outside assistance. He says he has evidence to prove that they requested, and received, information about the Gulf Stream while at sea. His protest was summarily dismissed by the race jury on a technicality.

Hall’s comment about withdrawing Gartmore may just be a threat (after all, he has to get his boat back to Europe somehow), but a three-boat, one horse race would bring the race back to St Malo in pretty dented shape.