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31 January 2005, 11:41 am
Hard Graft Paying Off
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Ellen MACARTHUR

A fast night on B&Q, gains Ellen MacARTHUR more time on the clock, but hard core sailing powering upwind to the north in a strong, albeit unstable, wind stresses the over-tired 75ft multihull even more:
'The wind went really light then kicked in again with a cloud line, and now I've been hanging on to the first reef and Solent although its a bit too much for that configuration...so I've borne away 10 degrees for now to wait and see if it will decrease.' MacArthur's advantage has increased to over two days this morning [521 miles in terms of distance] and with less than nine days left on the clock, the pressure increases with every day that passes.

As Ellen said at the weekend - things going wrong have a much higher price tag on them now - the tension is palatble both on board B&Q and back at Mission Control for the shore team. Every phonecall from the boat could bring news of disaster - a near collision with a whale and a direct hit with an identified object at the weekend - only emphasises how easily this record could come tumbling down. For MacArthur, in isolation and away from other distractions, the effect of this stress is physically and mentally draining: 'I've had about 1 and a half hours sleep at most, I'm very tired.' She knows her dream could be snatched away from her so easily - her nerves are stretched as taut making eating and sleeping hard to contemplate. But she is hanging in there, everyone is hanging in there, the public support continues to swell, willing her safely and successfully home on the final stretch.

B&Q is closing on the 25,000 mile mark averaging 16.2 knots over the 24,869 miles sailed so far. Today B&Q could break the 2,000 mile barrier in terms of miles to go the finish, as VMG [Velocity Made Good] required to the finish drops to 10.3 knots. MacArthur sailed a blistering 402 miles through the water in the last 24 hours, which equates to 374 miles in terms of Distance Made Good to the finish compared to the 300 mile DMG of Francis JOYON.

MacArthur sailed past the Cape Verde Islands yesterday and B&Q is now 400 miles to the north-west of the islands. Ahead are the Canary Islands another 970 miles further up the race track. Temperatures start to cool slighly on board - down to 23 degrees C as conditions on board become a bit more comfortable in terms of heat.

Potential for squally conditions today as MacArthur sails on the eastern edge of a north-south band of cloud. Trade Winds expected to remain in the 16-22 knot range through today, continuing their turn to the right and into the south-east. Tomorrow the breeze will increase as a low to the west of B&Q delivers 20+ knots of breeze, although Ellen is trying to keep as much easting as she can to avoid the stronger stuff closer to the low - it should prove to be a fast reaching day, if the sea state allows. The high pressure system to the west of Ireland will be the main focus for her weather routers, watching to see which way it moves and how much it will impact on her course to the finish line.

For now, they expect Ellen to have to sail into the high, as it drifts SSW, then tack out again - the key to success is not going too far in that you get trapped by the windless zone in the middle. A developing low pressure will move along the north side of the high and drop down SE into Europe to bring strong 35-40 knot upwind conditions which is a pretty frightening prospect for Ellen as she gets close to the finish line. In these kind of conditions high boat speed is the last thing you want or can afford, and it could be a slow slog to the finish at a time when Joyon was exceptionally quick. The simple calculation of VMG required to the finish, hides the fact that going upwind in this kind of breeze, B&Qs VMG could be below 10 knots.

Team Ellen (As Amended by ISAF)
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