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31 December 2004, 05:20 pm
News article - Style G 10621
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Ellen MACARTHUR

B&Q reaches midway point of record attempt 2 Days 10 hours 44 minutes ahead of Joyon. Ellen MACARTHUR is pushing B&Q fast to the east, currently sailing at 22 knots in 21 knots of north-westerly breeze - faster than the wind. Having covered 13,725 miles at an average speed of 17.4 knots, MacArthur is effectively at the midway point of her solo round the world record attempt with a 2 day and 10 hour advantage over Francis JOYON'S record time.
But her time advantage may start to evaporate as B&Q is forced the long way round a cell of high pressure to her north. Currently positioned at 53 45 degrees south, Ellen is skirting this zone of high pressure to try and avoid the worst of the light wind area. Fog created by relatively warmer NW wind over a very cold sea (5 degrees C), is making progress slightly hazardous: 'I am heading a bit more east now, and due to the shape of the Convergence Zone, I'm now moving away from it and the temperature is sneaking up slightly. I still can't see in front of the boat at all. I've got the radar on, and it's hard not to look in front of the boat every 5 minutes. I really don't want to see an iceberg, especially at this speed.'

MacArthur will then start to push slightly north of east planning to sail north of Campbell Island to keep as clear as possible of the iceberg field situated south-east of New Zealand. Campbell Island is situated approximately 360 miles south of mainland New Zealand and 560 miles to the east of B&Q, and MacArthur is expected to pass Campbell Island later tomorrow. The current record holder, Francis JOYON, sailing his 90-foot multihull IDEC, was for many days pinned much further north due to unfavourable weather systems beneath him, but he managed to round the south-east cape of Tasmania and his prospects improved rapidly and he was heading south again at this same stage. Joyon passed between the Auckland Islands and Campbell Island and the tracks of B&Q and IDEC will reconverge once again. Whether MacArthur can keep her near two and a half day advantage remains to be seen.

The fast and more stable conditions in the past 24 hours have given time to MacArthur to recoup but in typical style, the 75-foot multihull always comes first: 'I've been pretty busy and got a lot of jobs done. I bailed out water from the back beam amongst other things and done a fuel check - used less than half the original tank, so that's good news.' Keeping on top of the job list goes a long way in helping MacArthur rest herself and she has managed to get some much needed sleep in the last two days.

Thick fog and sea temperatures dropping to as low as 5 degrees puts Ellen on ice alert: 'There are birds around me, that's always a sign of an iceberg... There is thick fog, I can't see more than a few boat lengths ahead of me, and the water is only 5 degrees C. This is pretty scary!' Ellen is still some 30 miles north of the Convergence Zone (main ice area), and is just north of the tracks of two Vendee Globe race boats (Virbac and Temenos) that passed here last week without spotting ice. But the pulse rate is up!

The high pressure is expected to get pushed north away from B&Q, by a cold front to the south and as this happens the wind will back into the west then south-west allowing Ellen to sail north-east to pass Campbell Island. The cold front will then deliver strong SSW and SW winds allowing Ellen to sail fast along a corridor between 50-53 degrees south, trying to keep clear of the ice, as she aims towards Cape Horn [approx 3000 miles to the east].

Weather Analysis From Commanders' Weather 0600 GMT:

High pressure is located from NE of Tasmania to S and SE of South Island, NZ. Ellen is currently sailing around the SW and S side of this high pressure area in favorable NW winds. It is quite foggy since the NW wind is a warmer wind over very chilly water.

Cold front S and SW of Ellen will move NE over the next 24 hours. This cold front will serve several purposes:

1) the high pressure area will be pushed N and NW, away from Ellen
2) winds will back into the W and then SW, which will allow Ellen to sail NE and between Auckland and Campbell Islands
3) sailing NE later today and tonight will allow Ellen to sail north of the icebergs east of Campbell Island
4) the cold front will bring favorably strong SSW and SW winds, which will allow Ellen to sail very fast, aiming at Cape Horn, but staying north and away from the icebergs

Winds will be lighter over the next 24 hours, but by being further S, she will miss the area of lightest winds further north. Once the cold front passes, around 1200UTC Saturday, the SW will steadily increase over the following 24 hours.

Position as at 0710 GMT

Lat/Long: 53 45 S / 153 45 E (663 miles SSE Tasmania / 670 miles SW New Zealand)
Average Boat speed: 22.61 knots (heading E)
True Wind speed: 21,4 knots (direction NW)
Sea temperature: 7.3 degrees C
Distance sailed so far: 13, 725 miles at an average speed of 17.4 knots

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