Ellen is currently 4 days, 17 hours and 7 minutes ahead of Francis JOYON's (FRA) record.
Time for some diy and tlc after the five days of punishing conditions for both Ellen and her 75-foot multihull, B&Q. Endless sail changes in the erratic conditions earlier in the week and then the storm that battered B&Q for another 24 hours, leave MacArthur with a never-ending job list. Heading slightly north of east in a steady 18-20 knot north-westerly breeze and a more moderate sea state [15-20ft] has allowed Ellen time to tackle many of the jobs on the list, including replacing one of the 'fuses' on the main rudder [see Jargon Buster below] and to get some much-needed rest herself after minimal sleep this week: 'The Southern Oean continues to wear me down...I'm very tired.'
Ellen's time advantage standing at 4 days, 17 hours and 7 minutes at 0810 this morning as B&Q continues on a direct course to Cape Horn, close to the Great Circle Route, and approximately 300 miles further south of Joyon's historical track. B&Q has now sailed over 17,311 miles going into day 42 of the record. The reception of live boat data, including position, is still intermittent as satellite comms issues persist, as Ellen traverses from one satellite region to another. The team are working to solve this as soon as possible and can provide position data via B&Q's back-up Argos beacon.
Added tension passing another iceberg zone as Ellen traverses the longitude where a number of iceberg reported to her north and south indicated that there is a line of bergs heading right up to 48 degrees south [where her team mate, Nick Moloney, racing the Vendée Globe in her old boat, picked up 3 bergs on his radar last night].
B&Q racing to stay ahead of depression and today offers MacArthur reasonable north-westerly 18-25 knots of breeze and a 'squall-free' day to keep pushing east ahead of the depression, but there is trouble on the horizon. The low weather system that delivered the storm on Thursday is now located 250 miles to the west of Ellen and having completed a clockwise loop is now moving east. As it intensifies it will accelerate and move quickly south-east tomorrow, into Monday. The upshot for Ellen is that this same weather system will catch her up, the cold front will bring about a wind shift into the SW, strengthen with wind speeds of 35-45 knots in the gusts and squalls.
Cape Horn ETA Wednesday, 12th January. Although still 1600 miles away, Commanders' Weather are predicting an ETA at Cape Horn for next Wednesday. MacArthur still has a lot more to contend with in the Southern Ocean before rounding Cape Horn - the only real turning mark on the course that will take B&Q back into the South Atlantic, to face another series of challenges in the final third of her record attempt.
What lies ahead of the horn? There is perhaps a misconception that once you 'turn left' at Cape Horn, you are on the 'home stretch' and it is just a case of keeping it going. This is far from the truth - the reality is, there will still be up to 9,000 miles to sail through the water, complicated weather systems dog the course back up the Atlantic including the 'boat-stopping' Doldrums at the Equator, and the risk of collision with an unidentified object increase as B&Q sails back into the busy shipping lanes of the Atlantic. Any lead that has been built up through the Southern Ocean leg could so easily slip away and as Ellen always says: 'It's not over, until it's over...'. Just three days from the finish of the Vendee Globe in 2000, Ellen's forestay snapped, coming very close to losing the mast after 90 days...
Weather Analysis From Commanders' Weather 0600 GMT:
From: Commanders' Weather Corp 0600UTC Saturday, January 8, 2005
The strong gale is located about 250 miles W of Ellen. The gale has completed its clockwise loop and will move E during the next 36 hours. The low will then accelerate to the SE late Sunday/early Monday.
Ellen continues to sail in a moderate NW wind with gales to the north, west, and south west of her. At this time there are no squalls near Ellen and she may spend much of Saturday squall free. The moderate NW wind and reasonable seas will continue for another 18-24 hours, or all of Saturday.
Low pressure moves very close to Ellen late on Sunday before accelerating to the SE. NW winds will increase, but the average, sustained wind speeds should remain near or under gale force. Squalls will become more widespread as Sunday progresses and the squalls could touch 50 kts at times.
Cold front will arrive late Sunday/early Monday with a wind shift to SW. At least for the first 3-6 hours of the wind shift into the SW, the SW winds will not be terribly strong, but sustained winds to 30 kts and squalls to 50 are likely later Monday. Monday could be a difficult day with shifty wind directions, potential for wind gusts to 50 kts, and large seas from the WSW.