The numbers were falling into place at the top of the leaderboard in the Rolex Fastnet Race yesterday afternoon.
As more and more boats crossed the finish line it was time for some to wonder if they had won the major prize, for others to move straight into a performance assessment mode.
As the minutes ticked by, the crew of Hasso Plattner's 80-foot Morning Glory could only sit and watch to see if all those charging in behind them would beat them on handicap. Glory, with Team New Zealand's Dean Barker in charge, had already been pipped at the finish post by Ludde Ingvall's 79-foot Nicorette. Just 2 mins 47 secs divided the two. But Morning Glory has a better handicap rating and it was she who was in pole position to take the Fastnet Challenge Cup. Her elapsed time of 2 days 14 hrs 34 mins 50 secs went up to 4 days 1 hr 11 mins 15 secs after the handicapper had done his maths.
Sure enough, the American yacht Zaraffa, a 65-foot Reichel Pugh design owned by Skip Sheldon, crossed the line after 2 days 20 hrs 18 mins 20 secs to beat Morning Glory by nearly 40 minutes in 4 days 00 hrs 30 mins 37 secs.
But they were all waiting to see if David Lowe's Farr 52 Loco, with Olympic gold medallist Iain Percy, navigator Peter Morton and British America's Cup team tactician Adrian Stead in the crew, could finish by 18.07. Even that may not be enough.
In what he described as a debriefing meeting ashore, Morning Glory crewman Hamish Pepper said: "We never really thought about winning the top trophy. The guys on board were just doing their job, getting on with what they are good at.
"The race went ok. We were a little disappointed not to have finished higher up, but it came down top the light, shifty wind conditions at the end. This was my first Rolex Fastnet and it was a tough race."
As the weather gave ladders to some and snake bites to others, the Volvo 60 race was won in 2 days 17 hrs 28 mins 34 secs by Jez Fanstone in NewsCorp by 21 minutes from John Kostecki in illbruck. Third was Gunnar Krantz's Team SEB in 2 days 17 hrs 28 mins 34 secs and fourth, in Assa Abloy, was Roy Heiner in 2 days 21 hrs 36 mins 08 secs.
"This race is too short to be long and too long to be short and it is hard to use the results to make predictions for the Volvo," said a tired Krantz afterwards. "A lot depended on what breeze lanes you were in, or what the current was doing, or what sails you were carrying. But, I think we are on the pace compared with illbruck."
An ever-cheerful Heiner said: "It was never the plan to finish fourth so, obviously, we are not happy with that. But the boat speed was good and the crew work was very good. The problems we had were very frustrating as we broke the main sheet, the mainsail halyard and had a shark caught on the rudder."
The race between the Open 60s was won by Bernard Stamm in Bobst Group, His time of 2 days 20 hrs 21 mins 07 secs was 17 mins 31 secs faster than Catherine Chabaud in her beloved, yellow Whirlpool. She was in no way downhearted. This was her last ocean race, and she was the defending holder of the Fastnet Challenge Cup. "It was a very interesting race," she said. "The start was wonderful, beautiful, despite the wind and we rounded the Fastnet Rock in the dark and in a little fog. It, too, was very beautiful."