Sailing: Pressure on Desjoyeaux in pursuit of record

Eyes red raw, every sinew taut, two fight-to-the-finish, shoulder-to-shoulder tussles were being fought out by some of the best solo sailors in the world in the western Atlantic last night.

Eyes red raw, every sinew taut, two fight-to-the-finish, shoulder-to-shoulder tussles were being fought out by some of the best solo sailors in the world in the western Atlantic last night.

In the closing stages of The Transat race, Michel Desjoyeaux in the 60ft trimaran Géant, was looking forward to completing the 2,800-mile trip from Plymouth to Boston by knocking nearly 36 hours off the record of nine days 23hr 21min set in 2000 by Francis Joyon. But Desjoyeaux, who in that same year set off to win the singlehanded non-stop round the world Vendée Globe race which catapulted Ellen MacArthur to fame, also had one eye looking back over his shoulder even though his second-placed French compatriot, Thomas Coville, who had been eating steadily into his lead in Sodebo, lost ground. Desjoyeaux knew that the last few miles approaching the eastern Atlantic coast were notoriously tricky.

Eight hundred miles behind them, in the 60ft monohull class, Britain's Mike Golding, in Ecover, and the now British-based New Zealander Mike Sanderson, in Pindar, were still slugging it out, just as they were at the start of The Transat, when they rounded the Eddystone lighthouse on Bank Holiday Monday over a week ago.

Also neck and neck, in fourth and fifth places, were two more British boats, MacArthur's former yacht now renamed Skandia and in the hands of the Australian Nick Moloney, and Hellomoto, Golding's old boat, now campaigned by the Devon-based Conrad Humphreys. These two left the Swiss Dominique Wavre's Temenos in third place after Moloney had to pump what he described as tonnes of water out of the yacht, which had been shipped when a hatch was blown off as he slept.

In the casualty ward, the round the world specialist Olivier de Kersauson dispatched his high-speed wave-piercing trimaran on the 1,200-mile trip to rendezvous with the dismasted Vincent Riou's PRB while the Hatherleigh, support ship to Pindar, was making rather more sedate progress to meet the dismasted Jean-Pierre Dick in Virbac. Bernard Stamm, rescued by the small tanker Emma then transferred back to the European Fisheries protection vessel Jean Charicot, leaving his upturned Armor Lux - minus its keel - to the mercies of the sea and the salvage experts, was making his way to St John's Newfoundland, where he is due to arrive today.

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