For the first time in the Whitbread Round the World Race, Maryland-entry Chessie Racing is leading the fleet on the third day of the 2,250-nautical-mile Leg 3 across the Great Australian Bight from Fremantle to Sydney.
Chessie skipper George Collins, the recently retired CEO of T. Rowe Price, and tactician John Kostecki piloted the boat through the fleet to establish a 1.9-nautical-mile lead over their nearest rival, Toshiba, the other American boat.
Their rivals are strung out in a fan-shaped formation some 50 nautical miles wide. The Dutch boat BrunelSunergy is in third position, 4.4 miles behind Chessie.
Norway's Innovation Kvaerner has clawed its way back into the race and is in fourth after a buckled mast obliged skipper Knut Frostad to heave-to about a mile from Cliffy Head on the southwestern tip of Australia.
Frostad, who signaled race officials that he was in danger of losing his entire rig, received permission to anchor and call for urgent outside assistance.
"We discovered that the whole mast was about to collapse in the bottom," he said. "It was buckled on both sides. Afraid of losing the rig, we slowed down and eased off some of the tension on the rig.
"We requested to have some equipment delivered," he said, "and this afternoon we stopped racing and anchored less than 1 nautical mile outside Cliffy Head.
"We received some repair material from a helicopter which almost landed on our stern."
Monaco's Merit Cup is in fifth, 5.6 miles astern of Chessie, and Swedish Match is close by in sixth. Two miles farther back is Britain's Silk Cut. Sweden's EF Education and EF Language are at the back of the fleet, more than 13 nautical miles behind Chessie.
EF Language, the early leader of the leg with American skipper Paul Cayard aboard, has taken the most northern route across the Bight, and Innovation Kvaerner has steered way to the south.
Tacticians and navigators will now agonize over how best to tackle the no-man's land of high pressure ahead of them. The breeze there is likely to die to no more than five knots.
Beyond the high lies wind galore, southeasterlies of 20 to 40 knots. For those who call it correctly, the high could give them significant gains.
For the first time, Chessie will be using her radical Code 0 spinnaker, designed and built by North Sails in Stevensville, Md. It is a heavy, flat sail and has the efficient foil shape of a genoa jib with the sail area of a spinnaker.