Even with three heraldic legs to propel her, Isle of Man couldn’t find the pace to stay ahead of BP

Isle of Man had been holding off BP’s challenge in this sixth leg for several years, or so it seems. As the final day dawned, Isle of Man’s western approach to La Rochelle looked like a winner when the wind filled in behind her.

BP’s relentless yet fruitless chase was taking its toll on her crew, as Tony Botterill pointed out. “Unbelievably tense. We knew it was going to be a big battle,” but when the breeze unexpectedly lifted Isle of Man, “we thought it was all over.”

As Tuesday dawned, Isle of Man was sailing along the northern coast of Île de Ré, her crew hiking hard and skipper Linn Parker sipping tea as she steered. She was confident as BP disappeared behind Île de Ré, giving herself an extra four miles to sail in so doing.

On BP, navigator Bill Singleton was franticly thumbing through guides and tide tables looking for anything that might get them back on terms. “We knew Isle of Man was on the other side of the body of water and knew the current was coming down. Our only chance was to hug the other side, line up for that final tack and go as fast as we could.”

So after rounding the northwestern tip of Île d’Oléron, BP veered away from the mark, crossed her fingers and hoped for the best. “It was critical calling that final tack,” said Singleton, “it had to be perfect.” On Isle of Man, Parker didn’t feel any need to respond: “We knew the current was there but didn’t know how much or what effect it would have. We didn’t think we’d lose any ground.”

When BP eventually tacked for the line 20 minutes later, it was clear their bold strategy had made a difference. Parker was phlegmatic as she looked on: “I could see their angle, using the tide for speed, he took off. It was amazing to watch.”

Having enjoyed the spectacle, she attempted to throw a cover on BP but it was too little, too late. BP crossed the finish line and waited one minute 26 seconds to cheer home the few Isle of Man crew members still dry-eyed. This could have been a top three finish for the Manxmen – their first.

Parker was “extremely disappointed having worked so hard. We’ve always had the potential (for a podium finish), just haven’t done it yet. It’s hard to see it all go in one minute and 26 seconds,” an emotional Parker said dockside. “We’ll look past it eventually,” she said, but “not today.”