Ellen MacArthur’s Kingfisher and Roland Jourdain’s Sill are neck and neck going into the final day of the Trophy SNI for crewed Open 60s, off Quiberon

After the first two days of the Trophy SNI in Quiberon honours are even between Miss Ellen Patricia MacArthur MBE (The Queen’s generosity was bettered only by the Mail on Sunday – they gave her an OBE) and Roland Jourdain. Today is the final day of racing and there’s not a thing to choose between them: both Open 60s have two wins each and the slightest error will let in third-placed man Bernard Stamm and his Transatlantic monohull record-breaking Armor Lux.

Jourdain struck first, taking Friday’s first race after sailing a better first beat. Then Sill accelerated to 15kn as she bore off round the top mark in the 20-28kn breeze. She stayed narrowly ahead to win but Ellen’s Kingfisher hit back in the second when co-skipper Nick Moloney pulled out three boatlengths after a perfect start. The margin at the finish was two and Friday’s laurels were shared.

Saturday brought 25-35kn of breeze howling across the water to Quiberon and grittier racing resulted. Kingfisher rounded the windward mark first but Sill’s crew sailed another excellent downwind leg to take the lead, only to hand it back at the leeward mark after a wild spinnaker takedown.

Once again Jourdain snapped back, passing Ellen to lead the fleet back down the track one last time. Jourdain will have expected Ellen to fight to the last and she didn’t disappoint, winning the third race by less than a boatlength. Stamm’s final takedown went completely pears and Michel Desjoyeaux slipped through to bring in PRB third.

The breeze was piping for race four and all six of the Open 60s racing here clocked outrageous speeds. Sill hammered over the startline first and just disappeared, lost in a mist of spray. Ellen and her crew soon followed, as Kingfisher’s speedo blinked 22kn, but still she couldn’t get near Jourdain and rounded the top mark third. For much of the race, Ellen was attempting to find a way past Stamm’s Armor Lux and eventually sneaked it to take second and stay on terms with Sill overall.

“I am always nervous coming back onboard after my forced absence trying to write my book, ” said MacArthur, “and then to race around the cans which isn’t my speciality. But today, the team was great, and Kingfisher was really on form. Sill is excellent competition in particular, and we’re going to have a season of close battles with them I am sure!”

The season she refers to is a new series of events designed by IMOCA for Open 60s to ride the wave of popularity the Open class is enjoying. French Insurance giants Mutuelles du Mans Assurances (MMA) are series title sponsors and the series comprises four events at present with two more looking likely. The first two have already been contested, the Europe1 NewMan STAR and the Vendée Globe, and the Trophy SNI is the first of the crewed events, with eight onboard.

Next is the EDS Transatlantic Challenge, with five crew. The two subsequent series events are hoped to be the Route du Rhum and the Around Alone. Since they coincide, one of these events will have to reschedule. IMOCA have also decided that a freeze should be placed on boat development until after the start of the next Vendée Globe in 2004.