A fast and wild ride was carrying the Volvo Ocean racers ever closer to the finish of the seventh leg from Annapolis to La Rochelle yesterday. The only worry was whether the west-coast French port would be ready, as the fleet was set to be two to three days ahead of schedule, the first tied up safely on Thursday in time for lunch.
John Kostecki, the overall leader, still held a near 20-mile advantage as he went for his fourth leg win in illbruck, but he had to keep his foot to the floor.
Chasing him, separated by only a mile, were Kevin Shoebridge in Tyco and Neal McDonald in Assa Abloy. They will probably remain neck and neck to the finish.
With winds of 28 to 35 knots and gusting up to 43, it has been a wet affair on deck. Glenn Kessell was almost washed overboard on SEB, which made the break south from the leading trio's route.
Surviving an even fiercer gale, Lisa McDonald and the all-woman of Amer Sports two made it safely to Halifax, Nova Scotia. They were on the end of a 200m tow-line behind a Canadian ice breaker, having been dismasted.
Also taking stock after being dismasted, Mike Golding was still hoping to take his Open 60 Ecover to St Nazaire to take part in the Rubicon Regatta this weekend.
Brest last night welcomed Bruno Peyron and the crew of the Catamaran Orange after they broke the record for non-stop Round the World circumnavigation. They set a time of 64 days eight hours, ahead of the 71 days and 19 hours set by Olivier de Kersauson in 1997, to win the Jules Verne Trophy.
VOLVO OCEAN RACE Seventh leg (3,400 nautical miles, Annapolis, US, to La Rochelle, Fr): 1 illbruck (J Kosteci) 1,007nm to finish; 2 Tyco (K Shoebridge) 1,027; 3 Assa Abloy (N McDonald) 1,030; 4 SEB (G Krantz) 1,065; 5 News Corp (J Fanstone) 1,067; 6 Amer Sports One (G Dalton) 1,079; 7 djuice (K Frostad) 1,085; 8 Amer Sports Two (L McDonald) retired.