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20 January 2005, 11:08 am
Headboard Car and Mainsail Track Damage
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Ellen MACARTHUR

The timing could not have been worse. Yesterday evening the shore team were already concerned for Ellen, as she reached, and exceeded her limits of fatigue. Overnight some stability in the wind, albeit boisterous conditions, allowed her to lie down for 7 hours according to her bio-monitor. BUT then disaster struck. She noticed at first light that the top of the mainsail was flailing around.
With the binos she ascertained that the headboard car was detached from the track, and the track damaged. 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 the headboard car, this one takes the most load. This has ripped off the track, damaging the track. Damage assessment is underway...

Yesterday afternoon she also suffered damage to the tackline of the solent headsail. She reported to her shore crew that 'The tack line has blown off - it went in 27 knots of breeze. We had been expecting squalls up to 30 knots as we crossed the front but the breeze just increased and stayed, the pressure was too much.' The tack line adds tension to the sail and runs from the foot of the sail, via a purchase system, down through a jammer on the deck and back into the cockpit. When the tack line gave way, the sail was suddenly released and whipped back - the retainer line attached to the furler drum at the base of the sail, used for reeling in or releasing the sail, reached its maximum tension before breaking apart the plastic casing of the drum.

Fortunately, the Solent itself was not damaged as it flogged in the breeze unchecked by the tack line - if it had been, the result would have been more serious. Ellen can still use the Solent sail by putting the tack line round a winch, although she is currently sailing under staysail and two reefs, but will need the Solent again soon as the winds decreases ahead. More DIY is required to fix the furler drum casing and re-cover the tack line which had its cover ripped off in the jammer, at a time when she needs rest above all else.

MacArthur's advantage is being eroded and has reached its lowest point since her rounding of Cape Horn, now standing at 2 days and 12 hours at t this afternoon and, in terms of distance, only 823 miles ahead of current solo round the world record holder, Francis JOYON.

Team Ellen (As Amended by ISAF)
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