Yesterday it was announced that the arrival venue for Ellen MACARTHUR'S solo round the world record attempt on board the 75-foot multihull B&Q will be Falmouth, Great Britain.
But as the last week has proven, the success of her record attempt still hangs in the balance and the reality is that MacArthur perhaps only has a 1 in 4 chance of breaking the current solo, non-stop round the world record of Francis JOYON. The decision was reached after consideration of many different factors including the logistics for the support team, and the needs of Ellen's key sponsors, the media and the general public who have been supporting Ellen during these past few months. The Falmouth decision was also supported by the simple fact that it seemed logical that MacArthur should return to the very port from where she embarked to start her round the world record attempt 58 days ago. 'The support we received in Falmouth prior to Ellen's departure was fantastic,'
said Offshore Challenges CEO, Mark TURNER, 'B&Q was berthed at Port Pendennis right next to the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, so providing a great vantage point for the public, who turned out in force to see Ellen off last November. We are very grateful to the Carrick District Council, the Maritime Museum, Event Square Management and Port Pendennis Marina, who are all fully committed to supporting Ellen's return by providing logisitical support and important facilities that will have to be put in place for public and media alike.'
Consideration was also given to a number of concerns from Vendée Globe organisers in Paris, for whom there is a small risk of concurrent finishes in Les Sables d'Olonne, with possible confusion if Ellen were to arrive in a different French port at the same time.
The finish line stretches from Ushant (France) to The Lizard on the UK side of the English Channel. Ellen is most likely to pass the line in French waters off Ushant as it is the closest end of the line, and should then be escorted across the busy shipping lanes to the south west coast of England.
Ellen still has at least 4,500 miles to sail with many obstacles standing in her way - the notorious Doldrums, where the south-east Trade Winds meet the opposing north-east Trade Winds at the Equator creating a serious risk of total calm; the winter storms in the North Atlantic on the final stretch to the finish line; the risk of a major technical failure on board B&Q that could bring MacArthur's attempt to an abrupt halt, as both boat and skipper are extremely fatigued after sailing over 21,200 miles; the risk of collision with an array of ocean debris or even another vessel; and the fact that Ellen could simply run out of time to beat the current solo record of 72 days, 22 hours and 54 minutes held by Francis JOYON. In the words of Ellen: 'It is not over, until it's over. Anything, absolutely anything can happen right up until the final moment we cross that finish line.'
There are numerous examples of round the world voyages ending abruptly just a few hundred miles from the finish, as boat and skipper fatigue significantly increases the chances of catastrophic failure. Ellen knows this well, having broken her forestay and nearly losing her mast just two days out from the finish of the Vendée Globe in 2001. In that same race Catherine CHABAUD lost her mast just a few hundred miles out, having raced all the way around the globe.
To break the current solo round the world record of Joyon's, Ellen must cross the line before 0704GMT on Wednesday, 9 February, 2005.