A last ditch effort was stretching Ellen MacArthur to the limit last night as she tried to close in on Jean-Pierre Dick and Loick Peyron over the last few miles of the Transat Jacques Vabre race from Le Havre to Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. With co-skipper Roland Jourdain, she had slowly reeled in the man who won the race last time in 2003, cutting his lead to 13 miles.
But, with only 100 miles to the finish, Dick was making fast time and unstable wind conditions, which could have given MacArthur an overtaking chance, failed to emerge. Jourdain set the record of 16 days 13hr 23min in 2001; they were on schedule to shatter that by two days.
Safe in third place were Jean le Cam and Kito Pavant in Bonduelle as Britain's Mike Golding, partnered by Dominique Wavre of Switzerland, had to accept that a combination of great pace by Dick and gear damage had cost him any chance of victory.
At the front of the Volvo Race, Mike Sanderson's ABN Amro 1 headed a leading quartet across the equator on the first leg from Vigo to Cape Town.
Sanderson was 93 miles ahead of Brasil 1 and stablemate Sebastien Josse, in ABN 2, was just two miles further astern. In fourth was Britain's Neal McDonald, 112 miles behind in Ericsson while the Australians in Brunel Sunergy now trail by 1,000 miles.
Back in Cascais, Portugal, Paul Cayard confirmed that the underwater damage to his Disney-backed The Black Pearl had been even more threatening than at first thought. He expects it to be shipped to Cape Town on 25 November. But the Spanish boat movistar, which suffered structural damage, will, said project director Pedro Campos, be repaired in Portimão.