Virbac has closed up to two miles on Mike Golding (Ecover) in the Transat Jacques Vabre Open 60 fleet

Overnight new Farr designed Open 60 of Jean-Pierre Dick, Virbac (pictured left) has closed up to two miles on Mike Golding (Ecover) in the Transat Jacques Vabre Open 60 fleet and threatening to take control.

Virbac already slipped through second-placed Sill yesterday evening and Golding on Ecover admitted that he Brian Thompson have their work cut out to stay ahead commenting: “Virbac have done a really good job to make up some ground, we think that obviously Virbac seems to be getting a better lift than us on the inside, so she’s pointing closer to the mark and therefore gaining ground. We knew we had a good boat for upwind, and we’re pretty happy where we are against Sill, the best of the current boats, but obviously Virbac has found some good speed too. However, they are a new boat like Ecover and we’re all still learning, there’s more power in her to come and we’ve just got to find it.”

Whilst these two battle it out just 30 miles from the Spanish coastline in 15 knots of breeze, Sill’s ever-smiling skippers Jourdain and British sailor Alex Thomson, went for their westerly option early on and are 127m off the coast. Jourdain said this morning on the sat phone: “We thought through this decision carefully together with the weather router Pierre Lasnier, and have more wind offshore than the others closer in. At some point you have to get west anyway, we’ll see how it pays soon.”

The Baume & Mercier Trophy for the best 24 hour mileage between 1200hrs each day has begun, and so far it is Sill who has recorded the highest mileage of 208.8m at an average boatspeed of 8.7 knots. However, it has to be noted that Ecover in one hour clocked an average boat speed of 10.5 knots upwind with PRB next at 8.3 knots and Sill with 7.8 knots. The new boats are performing well so far in their first oceanic race, and there are still 3799m to run.

Other news in the fleet: TIR Groupe, skippered by Mike and Robert Birch, left Dartmouth at 2330hrs last night and are already passing Ushant racing at the back of the Open 60 fleet. Sebastien Josse and Isabelle Autissier sent in a message overnight to say that they are still surprised to be holding fifth place as their boat is more of a downwind rocket and not fast at all upwind. “We’ve broken a stanchion and lost one ARGOS beacon and otherwise are sitting tight for some following winds – but we’ve got at least 300m to wait!”

Leading Open 50 Storagetek, skippered by Regis Guillemot has suffered a few breakdowns but are still holding a 21m lead over Hellomoto: “The wind instruments at the top of the mast have broken, which has brought down our radar and Mini C, and had quite a lot of water coming into the boat, plus the ARGOS beacon came out of its fitting.” Defi Vendéen has restarted again at 0100hrs French time this morning, but has a lot of mileage to catch up on their fellow 50 footers.

So there are 14 Open 60s on the water racing and 5 Open 50s. Ross Hobson and Andi Newman on Open 50 Multihull Mollymawk actually arrived in Queen Anne’s Battery in the small hours of this morning and are thinking that they may be able to repair their hole plus other bits and pieces, and possibly restart. UNCL are deciding whether they can retract their notice of retirement and restart the race, but it’s a race against time as the 60ft multi’s are starting tomorrow and they can’t feasible go later than this fleet or they will not arrive into Salvador in time.