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24 May 2002, 12:21 pm
Restart at the Rock - will Sill be toppled?
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Regatta de Rubicon

Today should see a 'restart' at the entrance of the Gibraltar Straits for the 6 Open 60 yachts racing in the Regatta de Rubicon on Leg 2 from Lanzarote to Margherita, Italy.

After a tough three day upwind tacking contest in unpredictable and varying conditions, grinding on the moral and physique of each crew and skipper, the hard fought advantages gained by the leaders and miles lost by the back markers could be wiped clean off the slate as the eagerly awaited Westerlies haven't filled in as expected. One relief is that the teams can loosen the sheets and open up the sails. The entrance to the Med lies under 40 miles away in the sights of leader Roland Jourdain and his band of merry men on Sill Plein Fruit.

Bilou is guarding jealously the 27 mile advantage over second placed Kingfisher (Moloney) as he points the bow of his Lombard-designed Open 60 on the direct route, 40 miles from the entrance to the Mediterranean. "We're just relieved to be back on course, and to be able to take the strain off the sheets for once! On the other hand, it's going to get calmer out here, and I can see a set of traffic lights ahead. There is definitely going to be a regroupment of the fleet at the Straits! So another restart, the crew are prepared for this eventuality, and we're holding on to every inch of sea water we can put between us and the others."

Second placed skipper in the fleet is still Nick Moloney on Kingfisher, who shared the same sentiment with the leading skipper: "I have just started to look at weather in the looks difficult right from the beginning and we could see a total re-start from Gibraltar. I hope not as we have worked hard for our position so far and are still in a position to attack first. I don't want to see the boats astern again as the fleet is so competitive. Dominique is very experienced in the Med so I think we will need every mile of the buffer we have right now on Temenos."

Italian skipper Simone Bianchetti on Tiscali Global Challenge is another skipper taking things step by step, as he defends his podium position from Bernard Stamm on Bobst Group - Armor Lux, who is stuck like glue to his transom. "Everything in its own time. We're going to sail into fluky winds as well as dead calm in the next few days. We're just ! looking at our tactics after passing Gibraltar."

Clearly the cogs are turning in the minds of each of the skippers and their crew, even if to some degree it will be a bit of a lottery too. No-one is sure what is to come once they have crossed the threshold of the Mediterranean today, but ultimately they will all be looking to knock Sill off the top spot.

Mary Ambler/News Editor
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