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31 March 2006, 09:15 am
Leg One Of Asian Record Circuit Completed
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Ellen MACARTHUR (GBR) and her three crew passed the finish gate off Jeju Island, South Korea yesterday at 18:14:13 UTC to complete the first leg of the Asian Record Circuit to establish the first record in a time of 5 days, 11 hours, 10 minutes and 51 seconds.
The 900+ mile leg from Yokohama, Japan to the gate off Jeju Island, South Korea has proved to be a challenge for the crew onboard the B&Q trimaran.

MACARTHUR commented, 'We did not leave in the most favourable weather conditions, which meant that we were fighting a constant battle to stay on track and on target. The gale force conditions and damage to the rudder meant that we lost a lot of time and it has been an upwind slog all the way towards this finish gate.

'It has been a testing but interesting leg - sailing down the south east coast of Japan just three days into this record, we tangled a fishing line which did some pretty severe damage to our starboard rudder that had to be replaced - luckily we carry a spare. We were pretty concerned about the damage we may have caused to the fishing gear but the skipper of the fishing vessel was only concerned for our safety which was pretty heart warming. We then had to take shelter in the lee of Yaku Shima island to hide from the strong north westerly gale that saw the breeze continuously over 40 knots and gusting 48 knots. These conditions produced one of those incredible grey, massive and powerful seascapes that our boat was fighting through.

Biding Their Time

'Once in the lee of the island all we could do was bide our time and sail up and down until we finally stuck our bows out and left the shelter of this island in the early hours of yesterday morning to navigate our way through a string of further islands off the southern Japan until we were in open water. The islands were pretty impressive - lush green, mainly volcanic bringing strong smells of sulphur at times. Getting to the finish gate has been a slog, to be honest… On the wind the whole way in an uncomfortably and lumpy sea. We have all been in our survival suits as protection against the freezing water that douses the cockpit every time we jump off a wave. Sleeping and eating have not been easy but with company nothing seems so bad. With Loik [GALLON (FRA)], Charlie [DARBYSHIRE (GBR)] and Shaun [Yixuan WENG (CHN)] - life at sea is very different to sailing on your own. The whole stress factor is diminished because you know you are not on your own and the responsibility for B&Q's safety is not just yours. Although sailing closer to land brings other risks that you may not experience deep in the Southern Ocean. In these waters, colliding with debris is a big risk, the seas are steeper and shorter caused by the proximity of the land and we have encountered many, many fishing boats so we are all in a constant state of alert.

'But its great to reach this first landmark on our circuit - shame its pitch dark but there you go. We are not stopping here but continuing straight into the second leg to Dalian on the north east coast of mainland China. The weather is looking more favourable for this leg as the wind is expected to shift into the east and then further south in the next 12 hours so it won't upwind and we could get to Dalian within 48 hours. Hopefully, we will be able to get out of these survival suits soon.'

The next objective for MACARTHUR and her team is the 418 mile leg two from Jeju Island to Dalian, China. Their target time is two days and five hours.

Offshore Challenges (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Ellen MACARTHUR onboard B&Q:© Offshore Challenges Sailing Team
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