EDS skippers discuss the challenges faced by tough sailing and short stopovers. Thoughts from the EDS Atlantic Challenge skippers as they prepare for the Leg 4 start, on 5 August, from Baltimore to Boston, USA.
Three legs down, two to go and with the toughest part of the EDS Atlantic Challenge behind them, the skippers and crews of this inaugural event take time to reflect on the race so far and the course that lies ahead. If the wind gods play fair, Leg 4 from Baltimore to Boston should be a downwind sail in light to moderate conditions. They set off on the 5 August on the 650 mile leg, that is expected to take around 3-4 days. This should favour Ecover and Gartmore, the beamy Finot designs that are optimised to sail with spinnakers rather than headsails. Beyond Leg 4 lies a full-on push to the finish in France favouring those crews that have the stamina and fortitude to push an Open 60 beyond reasonable limits. In all, combined with the short stopovers, it is proving to be a challenging event.
"I really like the fact that as skipper I need to factor in the short amount of time budgeted for each stopover into my overall game plan," said Josh Hall skipper of Gartmore. "We know that if we push too hard and break something as a result and cannot fix it during the layover, then we will be penalized for the rest of the race. I also like the fact that during the stopovers we have to work really hard to get the boats sorted in time for the next leg. We are endurance racers and this is an endurance event."
Mike Golding, skipper of Ecover, takes a different view of the rushed port stops. "On one hand I like the compressed time frame under which this event is run, but I think that we really need more time in the stops to get the boats in perfect order before setting off on a new leg. It's safer and the boats can be pushed harder," he said. Somewhere between the two, Nick Moloney, co-skipper of Kingfisher was more practical. "I am learning so much from racing against these guys. In some ways this is the toughest event I have participated in. When I sailed the Whitbread race we had tough legs, but we also had long stopovers to recover. I am not sure which is more difficult," he said.
With a longer and more arduous passage from Portsmouth than expected, and a rushed layover in Baltimore, the look of weariness is evident in both boats and crew including Roland Jourdain, skipper of Sill Plein Fruit. Having sat out Leg 3 to take a vacation after a gruelling year that included a third place finish in the Vendee, Jourdain expected to be more rested than the rest of the teams. He handed over the reins to Gael Le Cleac'h, however watching his boat sail across the Atlantic via the medium of the race viewer on the EDS Atlantic Challenge website, Jourdain hardly relaxed.
"It was very difficult to see my boat, my baby, sailing across the ocean without me," he said. "I knew that Gael and the crew would take care of Sill, but it was still very difficult." He added that Ellen MacArthur, skipper of Kingfisher who has left her boat in the capable hands of Nick Moloney would have a hard time relaxing. "I know that Ellen will not find it easy," Jourdain said. "She will worry about her boat and I will miss our friendly rivalry, but in the end it is the boats that are the rivals and they will still be doing the race."
Leg 4 starts at 16:00 local time (20:00 GMT) from Norfolk, Virginia on Monday, August 6. A prologue start will be held in Baltimore harbour on Sunday starting at noon. The final leg returns to St. Malo, France, where the first yachts are expected to finish the race between August 23 and August
Boat Positions and official elapsed times for Leg 3
At 01:40 GMT, on a distance to finish (DTF) reading, the positions were as follows:
1st Kingfisher (Ellen MacArthur - UK) 15 days, 15 hours, 4 minutes, 19 seconds
2nd Sill Plein Fruit (Gael Le Cleac'h - FR) 16 days, 12 hours, 28 minutes, 10 seconds
3rd Ecover (Mike Golding - UK) DTF 16 days, 12 hours, 37 minutes, 10 seconds
4th Gartmore (Josh Hall - UK) DTF 17 days, 18 hours, 14 minutes, 03 seconds
5th Alphagraphics (Helena Darvelid - SWE) DTF 412 miles
" Fila (retired and docked in Boston)