Tough conditions in the Channel forced Emma Richards to retire from the Calais Round Britain Race after just 15 hours at sea yesterday but her fellow-Briton Mike Golding was disputing the lead with his arch rival, Roland Jourdain, as the remaining six yachts faced strengthening winds overnight.
Golding's Open 60, Ecover, took a more northerly route and picked up a favourable current off Portland Bill. But he was 30 miles further north of Jourdain in Sill et Veolia and the race organisers had lost contact with the Frenchman as both his satellite communications systems failed.
Suffering far more was Richards in Pindar Alphagraphics, who saw the smaller of her headsails disintegrate as the wind piped up over 25 knots. The crew, which includes the Volvo Race skipper, Sébastien Josse, tried to use a bigger replacement and that resulted in ripping the attachment out of the deck. "We have no upwind sails for between eight and 25 knots and, considering the forecast is entirely this, we would not make it round," said Richards, heading for Portsmouth and home. "We are very disappointed."
But Golding, who has his own on-board Volvo skipper in the shape of Neal McDonald, was relishing the fight. As he headed for a turning point at Bishop Rock, off the Scillies, and some fast reaching conditions to Black Rock on the south-west corner of Ireland, he was in upbeat mood. "All's well, but it was quite a busy night, pretty blustery. We are in good shape," he said.
While Sill was thought to be hanging on to a slender of lead of just a couple of miles, Golding was about 14 miles ahead of Bernard Stamm in Cheminées Poujoulat and a further four ahead of Jean le Cam in Bonduelle.