Before going to Le Havre, France for the two-handed Transat Jacques Vabre race, MACARTHUR was in Barcelona, Spain in October assisting with the launch of a new global race - a non-stop, two-handed round the world race in Open 60s called the Barcelona World Race. OC Events, a separate division of the OC Group, co-owned by MACARTHUR and CEO Mark TURNER, will be running the new event set to be staged over the winter of 2007-2008 for the IMOCA 60 Class, almost exactly one year before the next solo Vendée Globe.
In November the Transat Jacques Vabre race saw MACARTHUR's return to short-handed IMOCA 60 racing for the first time since her victory in the 2002 Route du Rhum, competing with French skipper Roland JOURDAIN on Sill et Veolia. They had one monumental battle with Virbac-Paprec skippered by Jean-Pierre DICK (FRA) and race legend Loick PEYRON (FRA) and it was DICK and PEYRON that finished ahead but by the slimmest of margins, just six miles after 4,340 miles of racing!
MACARTHUR will be leaving for South Georgia, in the Falkland Islands in the middle of December to pursue a cause close to her heart. The numbers of birdlife of the Southern Ocean and in particular the albatross are being massively depleted due to long line fishing and this winter MACARTHUR will be accompanying biologist, Sally PONCET, for two months on her annual birdlife survey on South Georgia. It will be the first time since MACARTHUR began her professional sailing career in 1997 that she has taken time out to pursue a personal project.
Since the 75 foot trimaran B&Q returned to Britain in early November, she has been undergoing a complete checkover and mini-refit in Cowes, Isle of Wight before being shipped out to Japan this winter for MACARTHUR's next very unique challenge. Sailing will begin at the end of March when MACARTHUR and a crew will aim to establish a new record circuit between a number of major Asian cities. Running from Japan via five ports in China including Hong Kong, Taiwan and ending in Singapore around mid-May.
This is perhaps one of the most ambitious projects the team have undertaken. It is a huge logistical challenge of organization and red tape before B&Q even arrives in China and then she will be venturing out into unchartered territory for the first time as she attempts to establish a number of new crewed records - in such a way that other projects can go and challenge them in future years, filling a gap in the market (for sponsors in particular) for Asian based professional sailing challenges.
Perhaps the most frequently asked question to MACARTHUR now is 'what are your plans beyond 2006?' As yet, MACARTHUR has not decided and will be spending some of her time in South Georgia contemplating her future in the sport of top level professional sailing. The current sponsorship contract with her title sponsors B&Q and Castorama, expires towards the end of 2006 and they are also currently reviewing the sponsorship programme. It is ten years ago that MACARTHUR embarked on her first big sailing challenge, and she has not stopped since. The next challenge that she could take on is likely to be a very tough one mentally, requiring a full-on three year programme - a decision therefore not to take lightly after ten years of non-stop action. What can be certain is MACARTHUR is not about to stop loving the ocean, so watch this space!