Sailing: Multihulls face gales

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The Independent Online

There were hard times for Ellen MacArthur and her co-skipper, Alain Gautier, as the 14-strong fleet of 60ft trimarans finally left Le Havre yesterday, delayed for nearly three days for their Transat Jacques Vabre race to Salvador da Bahia, Brazil.

Although they were first across the line, MacArthur and Gautier slipped steadily back as Michel Desjoyeaux and Herve Jan led the fleet down the English Channel at speeds of up to 27 knots in the ideal 15-to-20-knot south-easterly.

But all were facing up to gale-force headwinds over-night in contrast to the 60ft monohulls, which started last Saturday and had what they hope were their final testing times overnight on Tuesday.

By yesterday afternoon they were bowling along at full speed to the south and the Canary Islands in a fresh westerly, still led by Britain's Mike Golding and Mike Thompson, in Ecover.

Golding led by nearly 10 miles over the Bruce Farr-designed Virbac skippered by Jean-Pierre Dick, as Alex Thomson and Roland Jourdian slipped 67 miles astern in third. Nick Moloney and Sam Davies had pulled up to fifth.

In the multihull open 50 category, Mollymawk, skippered by the British pair of Ross Hobson and Andi Newman, have re-entered the race.

After hitting an object off Ushant on Monday, the trimaran limped to Plymouth, and Ross announced by satellite phone that they were withdrawing. However, once they reached port, they realised they might be able to repair and restart before the 60ft multihulls got underway, and were given authorisation by the jury. By yesterday afternoon they were 4,163 miles from Brazil, rounding Ushant.