Sailing: Ecover maintains lead over Virbac

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The Independent Online

Mike Golding and Brian Thompson continued to lead the Transat Jacques Vabre yesterday in their 60-foot monohull, Ecover, picking up speed as they raced towards the halfway mark between Le Havre and the Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, over the weekend.

Tracking south at between 16 and 17 knots, they were also keeping an eye on a group of rivals that have taken a more westerly route, including Alex Thomson and the 2001 winner, Roland Jourdain, in Sill. Thomson said yesterday that he hoped a new weather system would allow them to reel back the 70-mile lead which Golding and Thompson have over them.

Golding has played a canny game, placing Ecover in such a way as to keep his options open. "We have been monitoring Sill's progress in the west, but any benefit she may have will diminish," said Golding. "I think we are in a good spot. We will just have to wait and see."

The biggest threat is still from Jean-Pierre Dick and Nicolas Abiven, in Virbac, because Nick Moloney and Sam Davies have slipped over 160 miles astern in Team Cowes.

Further to the east, Davies remains optimistic. "Unfortunately for us, the boats in the west have so far got away with it," she said. "But we continue to push hard and try to get a few extra miles in every day. It is going to be a hard race, but we are hooning [zooming] now."

Jean-Luc Nélias and Loick Peyron, in Belgacom, held a 22-mile lead in the 60-foot multihull fleet with Ellen MacArthur slipping to eighth, 117 miles behind with Alain Gautier in Foncia.

In the 50-foot monohulls, Britain's Conrad Humphreys and Paul Larsen have established a 15-mile lead in Hellomoto.