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22 January 2005, 09:44 pm
Lead Drops To Less Than 24 Hours As Wind Decreases
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Ellen MACARTHUR

The South Atlantic continues to mete out its injustice on B&Q skipper, Ellen MACARTHUR, putting her solo round the world record attempt in serious jeopardy. Ten days since rounding Cape Horn, she has seen her near 5-day lead slashed to just 1 day and 2 hours this afternoon.
The situation and the forecast for the next few days is so dire that MacArthur expects to lose her lead entirely: 'It's been a terrible South Atlantic for us, absolutely terrible, worse then I have every experienced before from a difficulty, struggling and unpredictability point of view - it has just been terrible. We thought Francis had a pretty bad run up the Atlantic, as he did, but nothing as bad as us. We were four days ahead of him at Cape Horn and if we cross the Equator ahead of him, it will be a miracle. It just sums it up for me that the South Atlantic has just been absolutely horrendous.' MacArthur needs to cross the Equator, a week today, by 0835 GMT on 29 January, if she is to stay ahead.

B&Q is struggling to maintain speeds over 7-8 knots in the light airs of a high pressure that has expanded over her from the east in the last 24 hours as tries to get northwards off the coast of Brazil. Still with over 1300 miles to the Equator, MacArthur was hanging on to the hope that once she got to the other side of the high pressure ridge, there would be stronger and more stable E-SE winds to help her reach the more established Trade Winds south of the Equator. The latest forecast from Commanders' Weather has just trashed that small iota of hope: 'We probably will never really get through the ridge axis as it is forecast to lift northward slowly with us so will never get to the E-SE breeze northeast of the axis now...' MacArthur will have to face more light upwind conditions through into the middle of next and all she can do now is play the shifts to stay in the strongest sector of the northerly airflow without getting pushed to the west closer to the Brazilian coast.

The only upside to the slow, upwind conditions is the time for MacArthur's body to recover from the injuries sustained climbing the 30m mast twice on Thursday: 'Right now, I feel achy, very, very tired...a bit relieved that we've got some light winds just for a while to have a stable boat so I can recover a little bit.' In these conditions, B&Q will be sailing with full main and genoa that the 75-foot multihull can carry up to the 15 knot mark - this, at least, means MacArthur is not having to make demanding sail changes. Although sleeping is not proving to be easiest commodity in the intense heat off the coast of Brazil: 'Last night I spent at least two hours up on deck because there were ships going passed and I didn't want to go to sleep with the ships around, so it didn't really help from a sleep perspective. It's not too bad, it's been better than it has been and I did get some kip last night and I managed to get some jobs ticked off this morning.'

MacArthur will not give up the fight but it is turning into a fight of epic proportions as she heads north towards home - over 4,500+ miles away.

Team Ellen Media. Image: © Brazilian Navy
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