He had been trailing Paul Cayard's EF Language by first 20 miles, then 17, then 12 and then, overnight, he rode a band of fresh, north-easterly trade wind to establish a 2.6-mile advantage. And, in the six hours running up to dawn, he averaged an astonishing 17 knots.
It was the British skipper's more northerly position as the fleet rounded the Caribbean island of Barbuda that gave him the smoother angle after the back markers had closed the gap in a short period of lighter winds.
Mark Rudiger, EF's navigator, said: "The hounds are descending on the fox, and we don't like it. The skipper has been up all night keeping the sail changes going through the squalls."
WHITBREAD ROUND THE WORLD RACE: (sixth leg, 4,750 miles, Sao Sebastiao, Bra, to Fort Lauderdale, US): 1 Silk Cut (GB) L Smith 1,076.9 miles to finish; 2 EF Language (Swe) P Cayard 2.6 miles behind leader; 3 Swedish Match (Swe) G Krantz +29.2; 4 Innovation Kvaerner (Nor) K Frostad +39.1; 5 Merit Cup (Monaco) G Dalton +42.6; 6 Toshiba (US) P Standbridge +91.6; 7 Chessie Racing (US) J Kostecki +92.4; 8 Brunel Sunergy (Neth) R Heiner +142.9; 9 EF Education (Swe) C Guillou +191.3.Reuse content