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16 May 2002, 10:34 am
Sill Plein Fruit Holds Lead Ahead of Tiscali Global Challenge and Kingfisher
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Sill Plein Fruit

Regata de Rubicon
En Route To Lanzarote, Canaries

With Roland Jourdain on Sill Plein Fruit holding the lead, Ellen MacArthur on Kingfisher moved up into 2nd place overnight, before dropping back to 3rd this morning.
The outcome of last night's poker game with the weather sees that the bets in the West were well placed, as the high pressure ridge moved and caught the players in the East.

And over to the left of the playing field, Bobst Group - Armor Lux (Stamm) and Virbac (Dick) have been clocking up the better average speeds at around 10 knots, which has earned them a couple of places on the leader board as they now lie respectively in 4th and 6th position. Sill Plein Fruit (Jourdain) is still maintaining a solid lead of around 50 miles from 2nd placed Tiscali Global Challenge (Bianchetti), who are in turn holding off Kingfisher (MacArthur) in 3rd position. Sill has managed to put a little more East into her heading in order to draw herself closer to the yellow and blue Open 60 skippered by Ellen MacArthur, and retain a controlling position of the field. However, the leaders will all be wondering in this final countdown period to the finish how much Swiss Bernard Stamm is going to gain?

"Sill has consolidated her lead without a hitch. They have kept solid faith in their option since the start. Well played!" said Laurent Cordelle, navigator on board Tiscali Global Challenge, the team now 53 miles behind. "There are times when you just don't know for sure and you have too look at the boys on Sill, they either have nerves of steel or are simply very stubborn to have followed their option like that."

Hats off to Bilou and his boys in red for pushing out such a lead, but he is now having to control the Westerly side of the field: "You wouldn't mind calling Bernard up on the radio before me and ask him where he is?!" Bilou sniggered on the radio at 5am this morning. "I am desperate to see how this is going to end," he added. "It was some risk he took to go West! Bernard must be reaching now, and so he'll catch up on lost miles rapidly and could make a surprise come back, but I hope not in time for the finish line! Well, I think that in a few hours from here everything should come out in the wash." Note his use of tense, the preferred for skippers who don't wish to play with fate, after this spiny high pressure ridge has been playing havoc with the fleet overnight.

Whatever happens next, Sill Plein Fruit is consistently winning in the daily battle for the lead position and is now in a controlling position at the head of the fleet of 7 Open 60's. To have gained 50 miles in the torturous conditions they have experienced so far is recognition of their preparation and training in the run up to this event. Lanzarote is 400 miles down the track, as we enter the final act of this first leg of the Regata Rubicon.

Report from Kingfisher this morning:
"Last night was hard, we needed more wind, after doing so well yesterday on our strategy. So now there is no wind thanks to this ridge of high pressure, which is sticking to us like glue! But the team on board are determined, just great! We're hoping to reach some fresh wind today and get going again. Sill have played their cards right by crossing this ridge from the coastal side. We are 15 miles to the West and if this ridge moves off we'll be okay, but otherwise we'll be stuck right in it. I think that Bobst Group can make it back into the fray. We're making 3 knots of progress, they're reaching 15 knots - they'll be eating up those miles."

Meanwhilse Roland Jourdain is hoping to arrive in Lanzarote in the Canaries this Friday afternoon.
"The danger could come from the West, because we can't control the gap - I just really hope that the guys out there won't come back. We think we could arrive on Friday afternoon as a possible ETA. Everything could be played out to in the lee of the island. In theory, the routing software tells us that Stamm will arrive behind us. But up to this day we've never followed what a computer has to say. We are still in such close contact with Tiscali. It's like a large floating science project out here! We are the two sisterships and only the keel and rigging are different. With the weather ahead, the transition will be opposite Lisbon. We've been under rather grey and cold weather, a little sunshine and the seas have remained flat."

Leg 2 will see the fleet race from Lanzarote to Sta Margherita/Ligure in Italy and constitutes part of the FICO Championship series.
Mary Ambler/ISAF Secretariat
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