The leading boats on the final leg of the BT Global Challenge are due to arrive in Southampton on Saturday. They set off from La Rochelle on the 26 June.
BP skipper Mark Denton said he was playing "classic tactics" even though this was a 700-mile leg. "Always looking to see who you can cover, to protect your position. If you're in second you're looking over your shoulder at third, and you go wherever they go so they can't sneak past you."
And as Denton looked over his shoulder he glimpsed Logica. The two are vying for third place overall in the Challenge. But in the process, they've thrown away any chance for a podium finish in Leg Seven.
"It might not look too good at home," Denton quipped. "I'm sure my mom is absolutely barmy. We just slipped from second down to seventh." He realised to BP followers it might look like they're "throwing it all away."
But, Denton said, "We're just covering ourselves, looking after our overall position." Others are looking for that moment of glory that hadn't come yet. TeamSpirIT, with a 10-10-4-5-6-7 record in the Challenge so far, was the first yacht to round the lighthouse at Wolf Rock this morning. Skipper John Read has done considerable training out of Challenge Business' Plymouth base and conducted a lot of the rough weather sailing courses. His familiarity with these waters showed as he led the tightly-matched fleet into British waters.
Hot on his transom was Neil Murray and the crew of Norwich Union. Murray also has a great deal of local knowledge and sure enough, Norwich Union was around Wolf Rock within the hour.
Next was Compaq and LG FLATRON, who continue to sail a hotly competitive, private race. LG FLATRON is desperate to maintain their first-place overall position in the Challenge and Compaq, five points behind, is equally desperate to dethrone them.
Coming up across the English Channel, LG FLATRON had the slimmest lead as the two sailed neck and neck. As they approached Wolf Rock Compaq was the windward boat in a south-westerly breeze and inched ahead of LG FLATRON. Several hours later the tables turned and Compaq slipped behind. This match began with the warning shot on Tuesday, as LG FLATRON hunted Compaq in the pre-start area, and is expected to continue all the way to the finish line off Royal Victoria Country Park, at Netley.
BP and Logica were so intent on their match they split from the fleet and duelled all the way up to the Pointe du Raz. The race committee had placed a waypoint well west of there - at the Chaussèe de Sein buoy - to keep the fleet out of this hazardous area. But Logica and BP continued their personal match towards the dangerous Raz de Sein channel.
Spirit of Hong Kong kept them honest: Stephen Wilkins' team filed a protest against the two for bypassing the mark. It was withdrawn as BP bailed out and tacked west along the southern edge of the reef towards the buoy. Logica skipper Jeremy Troughton admitted he was deliberately taking an "unconventional route" and bashed through the channel. Traversing rocks and a strong current Logica subsequently tacked along the northern edge of the reef, then plunged down to round the mark. In the process they lost four miles to BP -- but later closed the gap.
The duel continued on another front as well. Logica protested BP for the illegal storage of sails on deck, a violation of race rules. The jury denied it, saying the wording of the rule was ambiguous. These two have surrendered their chances for a podium position in Leg Seven - even though pre-race Troughton said, We'll effectively sail our own race - try and keep away from them and try and get as many boats between us as possible and go fast."
But, as Denton said before the start, their goal would be to consolidate third place. "We wouldn't go all out at the cost of losing third place to Logica."
With their sights on overall position, BP and Logica have been passed by Spirit of Hong Kong and VERITAS, two of the yachts who were over early at the start and sat out a one hour penalty. The other two, Quadstone and Save the Children are also gaining.
Isle of Man trails at the back of the fleet. "We got stuck behind an island and what with winds, tides and endless tacks, we've been left playing catch up with the rest of the fleet," said Rob Peake. Juan Walters dived overboard to check that nothing had fouled with the keel or rudder and found the prop hadn't folded correctly and was causing excess drag. That fixed the team was on their way, clipping a few miles out of the 60-mile gap to the leaders.
For the Southampton-based fleet Wolf Rock was their first glimpse of home after 10 months of racing around the world. Today the fleet will continue to charge east past Eddystone Light in Force Four to Five west/south-west winds, with an expected finish in Southampton Saturday.
Leading Boats (29 June, midday):
1. Team Spirit
2. LG Flatron
3. Norwich Union
4. Olympic Group