The EDS Atlantic Challenge fleet make sail changes and position changes in a battle of wits as they head from St. Malo, France towards Cuxhaven, Germany.
This morning the EDS Atlantic Challenge fleet were dealing with fickle winds and strong currents as they sailed away from the coast of France. After a night of numerous sail changes and unsettled winds, and a morning just the same, the fleet has been divided into three groups. Leading the pack and changing positions at the front are Sill Plein Fruit (Roland Jourdain), Ecover (Mike Golding) and Kingfisher (Ellen MacArthur). Behind them Gartmore (Josh Hall) with legendary French sailor Christophe Auguin on board, and Fila (Andrea Scarabelli) were in sight of each other less than a mile apart. Alphagraphics (Helena Darvelid) and La Rage de Vivre (Loic Pochet are at the rear but still in the hunt with the constantly changing conditions providing many opportunities for catching up.
"We had a interesting night with a lot of sail changes," Ellen Macarthur reported in a satellite phone interview. "At one point we had a spinnaker up with 20 knots of wind from behind, but now that wind has died and we are doing six knots and changing sails constantly to keep the boat moving." Earlier in the morning Kingfisher passed an exploded fishing boat that was still smouldering. There was a French warship on standby and the smell of burning fish hanging heavily in the air. Sill Plein Fruit did not see the boat, but were obviously sailing in similar conditions. "We had the whole wardrobe on deck," Gael Le Cleac'h co-skipper on Sill Plein Fruit said referring to their entire sail inventory. "We used every one of our sails to keep our speed up and our position at the front."
Three miles back Gartmore and Fila were in a neck and neck race, crossing tacks and racing the boat as if they were on an America's Cup course. "We have been full-on match racing with Fila all morning pushing each other and changing sails as if the race was going to finish in 10 minutes. We have had no sleep and hardly any food," said Javier Sanso, co-skipper aboard Gartmore. By mid afternoon Sill Plein Fruit, Kingfisher and Ecover were in a dead heat with exactly he same distance to go to the finish.
The yachts will race up the English Channel today and are expected to reach the Strait of Dover by early Thursday morning. The first leg of EDS Atlantic Challenge races to Cuxhaven, Germany and Portsmouth, England before setting off across the Atlantic for Baltimore on the east coast of the United States. From there the fleet sails to Boston and then on to the finish in St. Malo with the first yachts expected to arrive between August 19 and August 22.
At 1350 GMT, on a distance to finish (DTF) reading, the positions were as
1st Sill Plein Fruit (Roland Jourdain - FR) DTF - 355 miles
1st Ecover (Mike Golding - UK) DTF + 0 miles
1st Kingfisher (Ellen MacArthur - UK) DTF + 0 miles
4th Fila (Andrea Scarabelli - IT) DTF + 2 miles
5th Gartmore (Josh Hall - UK) DTF + 4 miles
6th La Rage de Vivre (Loic Pochet - FR) DTF + 83 Miles
7th Alphagraphics (Helena Darvelid - SWE) DTF + 93 miles