It emerged during a routine radio interview yesterday that Sill is not running at 100 percent after tearing her main from the foot to the second reef during the third leg of the EDS Atlantic Challenge

Reports of damage throughout the EDS Atlantic Challenge fleet have been pouring out for the last few days; now race leader Sill has shed her cloak of infallibility and admitted to a badly torn mainsail. With 25-35 knot headwinds expected today and tomorrow, it is likely that the tear will be a factor in Sill’s eventual finishing position.

Skipper Gael le Cleac’h is faced with a no-win situation. If he does nothing about the tear, the sail will be useless by tonight. He can double-reef to protect the tear but Andrea Scarabelli tried that on Fila’s torn main and the result was a bigger tear. The third option – to drop the sail and spend several critical hours effecting repairs – would allow certainly Kingfisher and possibly Ecover to go through. Perhaps le Cleac’h might consider his overall position and settle for second or third in this leg.

The news is very encouraging for Kingfisher and Ecover, still eager for the slightest advantage over Sill, the winner of the two previous legs. However, the damaged mainsail hasn’t made any difference to Sill’s boatspeed or 24 hour runs yet – she is still going further and faster than anyone else. Kingfisher has closed slightly on Sill and at 0744 this morning the gap between first and second was down to 33 miles.

Ecover had a terrible night. Yesterday Mike Golding was spiked on the horns of a dilemma – whether to port tack inshore or to starboard tack south into the Gulf Stream. Ecover’s track suggests he might have changed his mind once or twice and as a result, Ecover lost over 50 miles to Kingfisher and now lies 106 miles behind Sill.

That said, Ecover is thought to be running at full capacity and has kept up with two boats much better suited to the contrary conditions. Regardless of last night, the redoubtable Golding is holding an extremely competitive hand and his race is very far from over.

Gartmore is still fourth, 465 miles off the lead, and there seems little prospect of a better finish. Skipper Josh Hall has positioned himself south of the main Gulf Stream flow but his track over the last 24 hours suggests he is fighting its effects and his 24-hour run reflects this.

AlphaGraphics is over 500 miles behind Gartmore but making the best progress in the fleet. Even so, there won’t be much downtime for girls if they are to make the start of the fourth leg – from Baltimore to Boston – starting 5 August.