For the first time since building her three, four, then five day lead two weeks ago, Ellen's advantage over Francis JOYON has dropped below 1000 miles and 3 day 4 hours ahead [representing 15.08% of the time remaining] after another night of desperately slow average boat speeds for B&Q.
24-hour average runs have slumped significantly in the past two days to just over the 200 mile mark compared to a good downwind day in the Southern Ocean of 450+ miles.
Another night of ill fortune chasing the elusive front as B&Q was all but becalmed last night: 'It seems like we are chasing a front that is moving away from us, we're going nowhere...'
B&Q is stuck on the south side of the front where the winds are normally light - overnight Ellen saw wind speeds of 7.1 knots before midnight, up to 13.8 knots at 0200gmt this morning but dropping to 5.6 knots an hour later as B&Q ghosted along at just 2.01 knots of boat speed. A huge frustration for Ellen, after an uncomfortable ride towards the front with lumpy head seas but light winds, as the front just seemed to drift away from her to the north-east. The frustration is exasperated by the fact that just the other side of the front are stronger, albeit upwind, conditions. The is the second significant weather hurdle that MacArthur is trying to overcome after crossing the ridge of high pressure 48 hours ago - that first hurdle seemed painful at the time, but this second obstacle is certainly causing more grief: 'The South Atlantic has not been kind to us, nothing has been easy since Cape Horn. This is a very hard challenge and there are very few relaxing moments... The boat is never still, even with no wind, it is always banging, crashing on a multihull.'
But the South Atlantic is renowned for its fickle nature and has brought many record attempts to their knees. The worrying aspect for Ellen, even with over a three day lead, is that she could be stuck for another six to twelve hours or more watching her lead melt away.
Ellen is over halfway from Cape Horn to the Equator having covered 21,466 miles at an average speed of 17.2 knots but VMG required to break the record [velocity made good towards the finish] has increased again as her advantage over Joyon's time decreases, to 10.1 knots average speed required to cover the remaining course distance of 5,112 miles. It took Joyon 13 days to reach the Equator and MacArthur is currently on her seventh day since rounding Cape Horn with the Equator another 1800 miles north of her current position. In 2000, it took Ellen 24 days to complete the distance from where she is now to Les Sables d'Olonne, the finish line of the Vendée Globe race on board the 60ft monohull, Kingfisher. She now only has 21 days to get to the finish line of this round the world record attempt, between Ushant and Lizard, and break the 72 day, 22 hour and 54 minute record.
Ellen is still waiting anxiously to gybe to head on a more northerly course but she must wait for the breeze to shift further to 240 degrees [SW] or better up to 270 degrees [W] to give her a better angle to head north and push through the frontal zone where B&Q will experience thunderstorm and shower activity during the transition. Wind speeds will continue to be light - between 4-9 knots - either side of the front. Once through the front, NNW winds will increase later. Ellen will be eagerly anticipating the arrival of the more stable south-east Trade Winds by the end of the week.