Roland Jourdain’s Lombard Open 60 Sill beats the fleet to take the first leg of the EDS Atlantic Challenge

As predicted yesterday on ybw, Roland Jourdain’s Sill has won the first leg of the EDS Atlantic Challenge. The margin was slender indeed, reflecting the entire leg, and feeble winds forced the organisers to shorten the course to keep the event more or less on schedule, but Jourdain’s reading of the weather was excellent and this proved to be the difference between the five front runners.

It had not been easy and the fatigue showed in the faces of Jourdain and his four crew as they took line honours. Jourdain is now able to relax and stop looking over his shoulder for the ever-present threat of Kingfisher and Ecover. When Sill crossed the finish line at 1818 GMT yesterday, Kingfisher was still nine miles away with Ecover a further five miles back.

The final few miles had been very difficult and might have been worse had the race officials not shortened course. With the wind forecast to die inshore overnight, race director Andrew Bishop shortened course twelve miles finishing the boats on the edge of the delta of the Elbe river.

The decision to shorten course was applauded by Jourdain who told reporters, “We are very happy to be in Germany and first over the line. It’s always a pleasure to be first and even more so with Ellen behind us. We used this leg as an experiment to try out different sail combinations and I think we found the fastest combinations. After the first 24 hours where we kept everyone on deck racing the boat, we settled into a routine and had a great race.”

Clearly pleased with his win, Jourdain and crew were looking forward to some food and cold beer.

At 1922 GMT a relieved Ellen MacArthur sailed Kingfisher across the finish line. The final miles had also been difficult for MacArthur and her team and they were grateful to have this arduous leg behind them. “We have a great team and we pushed the boat the whole way. It could have been anyone’s race right up until the end.”

Mike Golding brought Ecover over the line just as daylight was fading from a pale German sky. His official finish time was 1938 GMT. Although disappointed that he did not win the leg, Golding was happy with the way the boat and crew performed. Ecover is not optimised for upwind sailing and with most of the leg sailed into the wind, he was happy to be ‘in the hunt’ all the way.

The next two yachts, Gartmore and Fila finished after midnight local time, and La Rage de Vivre and Alphagraphics this morning. The second leg of EDS Atlantic Challenge starts on Monday 9 July and races to Portsmouth, before setting off across the Atlantic for Baltimore on the east coast of the United States. From there the fleet sails to Boston then on to the finish in St Malo. The first yachts are expected to finish the race between 19-22 August.