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24 January 2005, 11:41 am
Lead Disappears This Morning, Record Attempt Restarts From Zero
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Ellen MACARTHUR

B&Q's lead has disappeared this morning and MacArthur is expecting the deficit to get worse as the light upwind conditions continue to hamper the speed of the 75-foot multihull today and tomorrow.
MacArthur has maintained an advantage over current solo round the world record holder, Francis Joyon, since day 7 [4.12.04] of her attempt and managed to extend that lead to over 20 hours going into the Southern Ocean on day 21 [18.12.04] and just over 4 days exiting the Southern Ocean at Cape horn on day 46 [12.1.05]. Since Cape Horn her lead has been eroded as B&Q zig-zagged northwards off the coast of South America, in testing and unfavourable weather conditions - the South Atlantic has, once again, proven its ability to bring record attempts to a grinding halt. Her loss over Joyon's record is compounded by his impressive 'virtual' performance of a 399 mile VMG day today (ie he managed 399 miles towards the finish), whilst Ellen is unlikely to manage more than 100-150 miles as she continues to tack upwind in very light airs. Joyon did slow down - on day 60 [Wednesday] he made just 162 miles and day 61 [Thursday] 130 miles, and if B&Q can start picking up her speed by midweek as she gets into possibly stronger Trade Winds the scales may start to tip back in her favour.

B&Q has covered over 22,555 miles at an average speed of 16.5 knots and her required VMG [velocity made good to the finish] now stands at 11.4 knots with 4,559 miles of the course remaining - although MacArthur will sail over a thousand miles further chasing favourable weather and, as such, she will be required to sail a few knots faster than the average VMG required of 11.4 knots. Ellen passed east of the tiny 3-mile long island of Trinidade yesterday, coming within 6 miles of the volcanic island dominated by three peaks and today B&Qis approximately 650 miles south-east of Salvador, Brazil. The Equator will be crossed with much relief to take her back into the Northern Hemisphere, but it still lies another 1100 miles to the north and MacArthur must cross the Equator by 0835 GMT on Saturday, 29th January to beat Joyon's passage time.

MacArthur faces the reality as the battle for the record changes pace: 'Things could be a lot, lot worse,' said MacArthur. 'If someone had told me I was going to be 4 days ahead at Cape Horn, I would have thought they were mad. But that time buffer has proven very useful in dealing with the complicated weather of the South Atlantic - if we had not had that advantage, things would be a lot worse now.'

Yesterday Ellen sent back an email from onboard B&Q dealing with the current situation: 'I seem to have found some kind of inner peace tonight, and though today has been a very hot and little restful day, I feel surprisingly good. The weather could not be worse for the record, as I sit here we're sailing at 4 knots. But we have what we have, we cannot alter the weather....'

There is still every chance that MacArthur can still break the 72 day, 22 hour, 54 minute record of Joyon's, but it is looking harder to do with every position report. The 'race' just restarted at zero, but the wind is not letting B&Q get out of first gear - for now.

Team Ellen Media. Image: © Brazilian Navy
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