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15 December 2004, 05:23 pm
A New Record In The Offing?
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Ellen MACARTHUR

The 75-foot trimaran, B&Q, is on the verge of crossing into the eastern hemisphere this afternoon having covered 6806 miles - over a quarter of the 26,000 mile course around the world. The speeds have been blistering since Ellen got <<B&Q>> back on track in her solo round the world record bid.
Ellen consistently maintained 19-20 knots of boat speed during the night and most of the early part of the day. Her best 24-hour run [measured point to point] since the start came at 0910 GMT - clocking up 481.6 miles at an average of 20.06 knots [current solo 24hr record stands at 540 miles set by Laurent Bourgnon on Primagaz in 1994]. The north-westerly breeze continued to build as the low pressure weather system caught up B&Q, producing 35 knot gusts. Ellen had no choice but to reduce sail to slow the boat down as sea conditions deteriorated: 'We're getting our arses blown off! Sailing at 120 [degrees] and side seas. Got third reef in, getting it out is a nightmare, and think it might be a mistake. Boat slowed right down, we were going really well. But don't want to end up going too far south.'

Still 240 miles south of Joyon's track, B&Q continues to build on her time advantage to nearly 16 hours at 1510 GMT: 'We're trying to make a course of due east rather than dropping into the south because at the moment the breeze is basically from the north-west which makes it very difficult for us to climb to the north. But that breeze is going to drop back into the west and then we're going to gybe over and head south east.' The 30-40 knot NW air flow will continue through today decreasing by this evening. On Thursday afternoon a cold front will pass through and the breeze will turn to the south-west late Thursday or early Friday morning instigating a gybe on to starboard heading south-east. This will start a series of gybes over the next few days as Ellen manoeuvres B&Q in front of the depression ensuring she doesn't get too far south where the stronger breeze and bigger waves can be detrimental to the boat's performance.

The pace may be hot but the temperatures are starting to drop: 'Things are getting a little bit chilly and the water temperature has dropped down to about 15 degrees. The sky is very grey and the sun has dissappeared - we're in our first Southern Ocean depression. We're actually at 38 south so I'm almost officially in the Southern Ocean. You're generally in when you're under 40 degrees south, so it definitely feels like the Southern Ocean. We're heading down there for a long time so mentally things are changing and physically things are obviously changing too as it gets colder.'

With less than 853 miles to the longitude of Cape of Good Hope [18 29 degrees east], <> is certainly in the running to set a new solo time to this next major landmark. To beat Joyon's time of 19 days, 20 hours and 31 minutes, Ellen will have to cross the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope before 0441 GMT on Saturday, 18th December and with shade over 2 days left to do this, it is certainly possible: 'We don't seem to have any huge light patches of wind - maybe a few hours tonight - and on the whole we should be able to keep up a pretty reasonable speed between now and the Cape of Good Hope which is a good indication that we may well be able to pass underneath that Cape ahead of Francis' time.'

Team Ellen
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