Climbing the mast was a serious and dangerous undertaking for MacArthur who inevitably got thrown and bashed around during the climb: 'It was all I could do to hold on, it was brutal, really hard...' Ellen undertook the first mast climb at 1600gmt yesterday to the second and lower reef point 69ft [21.05m] up the mast and discovered quite significant damage to the mainsail mast track. The mainsail is attached to the mast via a series of 'cars' that slide up and down a metal track fixed to the backside of the mast. The final car at the top of the mainsail is known as the headboard car, this is the one that takes the most load. She managed to tidy up the damage, filing down the jagged edges so the mainsail cars could pass smoothly without catching. Ellen could have replaced a section of the track if necessary but it would have been a mammoth job on her own, up the mast on a moving and lurching boat. She was unable to make the ascent to the first reef point without the mainsail in place, so made the decision to descend, hoist the mainsail back up to just under the first reef point, and then went for the second climb at 1900 GMT.
During the climbs she had sailed B&Q away from the wind, rather than bashing upwind, so had effectively sailed back down her course. An hour later, MacArthur was back on deck - job done, and ready to get her record attempt back on track.
Lead drops to less than 2 days to 1 day and 20 hours at 0710 GMT this morning after the trials and tribulations of unfavourable weather systems since rounding Cape Horn and not surprisingly having to sail away from the direct course for two hours yesterday. In terms of distance, B&Q is only 669 miles ahead of Joyon's equivalent position - her smallest advantage since since approaching halfway on New Year's Eve. B&Q has covered just under 22,000 miles at an average speed of 17 knots and with 4,815 miles to go on the course, Ellen must maintain a VMG [velocity made good towards the finish] of 10.6 knots. Although the reality is that Ellen will sail more miles, possibly as much as 1500 miles, to stay in favourable conditions which will require faster boat speeds from B&Q of up to 12-12.5 knots.
Ellen is tacking B&Q to stay in the corrider of stronger northerly airflow but the writing is already on the wall that this weekend is going to be slow - a huge windless area from the St Helena high is expanding westwards all the time and a front to the south-west is added to the decrease in wind pressure (like a suction effect). Last night Ellen tacked B&Q back on to starboard around 2200 GMT, to then head north-west and conditions proved to be more lively than expected: 'I had 27 knots of wind at one point, so had to bear away and furl the Solent up, now back on the smaller Staysail and 2 reefs in the main.' This morning the wind is forecast to stay in the 20-25 knot range, edging left, requiring another tack to head back to the north-east around midday, and then decrease to 18-20 knots this afternoon until tonight when the winds will start to diminish significantly. The weekend ahead looks very slow indeed with winds forecast to be less than 10 knots.
With Ellen exhausted and nursing a very bruised body, it could be a testing time.