Finally, after six weeks of boat testing and many hours of hard work in preparation, the 75-foot B&Q trimaran left Auckland on Saturday to start the delivery trip back to Europe.
For skipper, Ellen MACARTHUR (GBR), and, Loik GALLON (FRA) and Mark THOMAS (AUS),it will be the first real test for the boat in Southern Ocean conditions.
Ellen and the crew will be heading for the Falkland Islands which, if the conditions are good, will take around 15 days. From there Loik and Mark will leave B&Q to Ellen to sail single-handed.
Ellen sent the following email after their departure. "So good to be out here again. We're sailing under a clear sky, with about 6 knots of wind...gennaker and full moon. It's been a massive challenge to get B&Q out of Auckland, but it's wonderful that we've made it. Just wish that everyone involved could be here to see what we can see now. Please send my love and thoughts to everyone."
B&Q left Auckland in a light 8-10 knots south-east breeze - the high pressure is predicted to move east and the crew will face their first frustration - not much wind! But, in reality, a couple of days of light winds will give them time to recover from the long hours and set themselves up for when they get down south and start feeling the first real conditions of the Southern Ocean.
As the trimaran left Auckland, Ellen said goodbye to the shore team, headed up by Project Manager Oli ALLARD, that had made such a huge effort to get B&Q ready.
"I am sort of numb by the work done for the last few days, the lack of sleep and numb as I have lost the thing that has been pushing me, challenging me and rewarding me many times over,"
"Ellen was very calm this morning...she got the weather and got onboard for a final check, thinking a lot but smiling and looking very eager to get out there. Mark and Loik also cruising through their morning preparation. There was no sign of rush or panic, no last minute urgent delivery".
"Rarely people think single-sailing as a team effort, but it was. The spirit was fantastic, nothing was too big, too dificult, too daunting, and all the boys and girls involved in the preparation worked there socks off so the programme would go ahead as planned. And it did. For sure, you could work for a month, or two, or even three and still don't run out of things to do and that's what boats are like. But where we are today, and what the crew has, is the first platform for big testing and drawing the improvements from there. So I am very proud to have been part of this team that has become, in my mind, the benchmark".
"Now it's packing up time. Funny to think that from next week onwards, the B&Q project will actually be in the same hemisphere, logistically first and all around in five weeks time. It felt like the boat was some cousin from down under of a big family that lives in motherland. But the cousin is moving back to its roots and is going to meet the rest of the family. Tomorrow the place where I stand will be quietness and tumbleweed galore!"
Images are available on the Team Ellen Website at the address below.