As the first boats crossed the finish line, leg six of the BT Global Challenge distinguished itself as the longest leg, with one of the most long-awaited finishes

It’s the shortest of the ‘big’ legs – measuring 5,820nm as compared to leg two at 5,840, leg three at 6,020, and leg five at 6,200 – but the sixth leg, from Cape Town to La Rochelle, has kept the teams at sea for a ridiculously long period.

More significantly, Compaq won the leg, keeping alive the race for overall victory with LG Flatron. “It was about time,” said Oxley, in La Rochelle. Their 4-4-3-4-5 record before thi swin was becoming tedious: “We got sick of nearly getting there and decided we’d had enough.”

The team had maintained their typically conservative demeanour all the way to the end. Then, as they surged across the line beneath blue skies, wispy clouds and a favourable following breeze, the simmering delight boiled over into group hugging. “We hadn’t won until we crossed the line,” explained Oxley. “Always with the light wind there’s an opportunity to catch up.”

Compaq’s Emily Little was less restrained: “We won. We creamed the leg. We actually won. I don’t think its sunken in for us yet. We actually did it. A delicious, delicious moment made all the more wonderful by the fact that LG Flatron are still 300nm or so away from the finish and currently in eighth place. If we’d come first to their second it would not have been nearly so sweet. Now we have our work cut out for us on the next leg. We can pip them to first place.”

Logica had given them an honest chase. Every time Compaq pulled away, Logica had reeled them back. Although in sight of each for five or six days, skipper Jeremy Troughton admitted Logica were doomed to shadow Compaq all the way to the finish line. “It wasn’t working simply to follow, he said. “It was all or nothing. We went for speed.”

In the early morning hours Monday they cracked off a little, expecting the wind to swing right. Instead the sea breeze filled in from the left and Logica fell behind. Compaq finished on Monday evening, two hours ahead of Logica and her crew were standing by as Logica approached the finish line.

Onboard Logica the reaction was spontaneous and charged. As they doused the spinnaker the deck became a pudding of yellow-slickered forms – jumping, hugging, tumbling across the yacht.

Troughton later admitted they had raced hard all the way and he was happy about the team’s performance and outcome. He said it wasn’t until Compaq was three miles from the finish line that Logica realised they’d been nipped. He said being robbed of the bullet again – but not as sorely as the pasting Logica took in Sydney Harbour – was nonetheless a fair hard-fought battle right to the end. He looked ruddy but jubilant, and said he felt, “absolutely great.”