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28 May 2002, 08:04 pm
Sill Plein Fruit due to finish later tonight
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Regatta de Rubicon

Roland Jourdain and his team on board Sill Plein Fruit, winners of the first leg of the Regata Rubicon from St. Nazaire - Lanzarote, are on the verge of notching up another big win.

They will add to their successful racing pedigree with this win if everything remains on course during the final 20 miles to the finish line in Sta. Margherita Ligure, Italy. The wind has seriously dropped away for these last miles, which has brought back the ETA of the leading boat in the Regata Rubicon to around 2230hrs.

At 1830 this evening the boat was trucking along at a fair pace of around 19 knots, but now is creeping forwards at 5 knots, having to sail in large zig zags to the line. Such conditions will also slow up the next two boats Bobst Group - Armor Lux and Temenos, likely to arrive much later overnight.

A whole 160 miles further back lies the injured Tiscali Global Challenge, skippered by Italian Simone Bianchetti, racing towards the finish still under jury rig since her unfortunate dismasting early this morning. Their ETA is around Wednesday afternoon.

In second place, Bernard Stamm and his boys on Bobst Group-Armor Lux were just 30 miles behind the Sill team at 1700hrs. With such pressure on his back, Bilou has never let his guard down for a moment, not until the line is crossed. "It's the home stretch but Bernard could still make up some of the distance between us. Who knows what is going to happen in the Bay of Genoa because the wind will fill in from behind." However, unless something untowards happens, it's hard to see how Sill will not finish in first place.

It was North of the Balearic Islands on Monday morning, where the decisive move was made by Jourdain and his team, as they positioned themselves just slightly further North and thus picked up the mistral winds. After such close contact racing for most of the leg, the distance between Sill &Bobst Group stretched from a handful to a good 40 miles in the space of a few hours. The last full night at sea saw the leading boat back up to full speed, surfing at 24 knots in the 40 knot mistral conditions, which enabled them to cover more than 300 miles in 24 hours. A joyride in comparison to the light capricious winds of the previous days.

"You just forget everything that went before. These are the really awesome moments to remember, it's amazing!" ! declared Ronan Cointo, on board third placed Temenos.

Another story, one of grit and determination, on board Tiscali, recounted by Tanguy Delamotte: "The mast broke in 2 pieces, above the 2nd and 3rd spreaders, we saved the pieces and the sails, and then sent Yannick Bestaven up the mast to fix up a pulley so we could re-hoist some of the mainsail. Now we're going along at 8 knots under 3 reefs in the mainsail and staysail. We're a bit exhausted, our hands are charred with carbon!"

Unfortunately, the option to skirt the Spanish coast after passing through the Straits has only served to increase the defecit of miles between Kingfisher and the leaders. Nick Moloney and his crew are likely to reach home port at the end of Wednesday morning, and have this evening picked up the mistral winds at last.

Mary Ambler/News Editor
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