Ascension Island–Kingfisher-Foncia, co-skippered by Alain Gautier and Ellen MacArthur, was due to lead the multihulls around Ascension Island just before end of the day today. It has been a hard upwind slog in the Southeast Trades, but the speed has been continuously remarkable. The leaders were averaging more than 17 knots while Franck Cammas and Steve Ravussin in Groupama were matching them all the way. Its a controlled match race between the two front runners with Kingfisher-Foncia tacking to stay between Ascension and Groupama.
Behind them, the pressure has been removed from one of their rivals. Jean-Luc Nelias and Michel Desjoyeaux had just launched an attack on the leaders in some 18 knots of breeze when the mainsheet traveler cars on the aft track all snapped. “We spent two hours fixing a jury rig,” said Desjoyeaux, “and we cant go shopping for spare parts.” Belgacom is hampered by not being able to play the traveler in a fitful but building breeze and it has knocked 5 knots off their speed.
Loick Peyron and Loic Le Mignon stuck firmly to their course in the east to go through the Doldrums and as they approach Ascension, its beginning to reap rewards. They are cracked off slightly on a direct course while the boats to the west of them have to tack for the island. Their Fujifilm is now in third place and closing all the time.
In the 60-foot monohulls, Roland “Bilou” Jourdain and Gael Le Cleach in Sill Plein Fruit have retained their lead and are 75 miles clear of the next boat. But the surprise is that this is now Mike Golding and Marcus Hutchinson in Ecover. They have had a remarkable 24 hours, moving up from fifth to second and passing Mark Turner and Nick Moloney in Casto-Darty-But during the night at close quarters. The navigation lights of each others boats could clearly be seen.
For the first time since the opening night, there is a different leader on the 50-foot monohulls. While Alex Bennett and Paul Larsen were “parked” in the Doldrums, their One Dream One Mission was overtaken by Yves Le Youdec and Jean Bacave in Saving. There is only a couple of miles between then but Bennett says, “It doesnt matter that Saving may be a faster boat in a straight line, its all about how hard you push your boat. Were working flat out, even trimming sails at three in the morning. Were feeling the pinch of fatigue, but know how important it is to get rest as well. These boats are man-eaters though.”