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23 January 2005, 08:51 pm
Wind Dies, Lead Diminishes
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Ellen MACARTHUR
730 miles east of Rio de Janeiro

Ellen's lead over Francis JOYON was cut down to just 13 hours this morning as the light airs continue to dominate B&Q's progress northwards in the South Atlantic, and at the time of writing at 20.50 GMT had decreased further to just 6 hours and 111 miles.
Boat speeds since midnight have not exceeded 5 knots and the light airs are set to continue for another 48 hours or more. Today, Commanders expect Ellen to see little breeze over 6 knots, close to the weak ridge of high pressure that is unfortunately drifting slowly northwards at the same rate as Ellen - its like walking backwards up the escalator. There is a chance that as this ridge dissipates, wind pressure may increase to 10 knots by Monday night and into Tuesday. It is important for Ellen to try and get as much easting as possible to have a better wind angle and faster speeds by the time she reaches the Trade Winds in the middle of next week. Currently 730 miles east of Rio de Janeiro on the Brazilian coast, there is another 600-700 miles to go until Ellen may start to feel the first effects of the Trade Winds and a total of 1270 miles to go sail before crossing the Equator and the hope of more stable, faster conditions of the North Atlantic.

It is expected that Ellen's lead will turn into deficit later today or tomorrow. MacArthur has held an advantage of the solo record time of Francis JOYON since day 7 of her attempt on 1.12.04 - during the first week of her attempt she took the lead on day 4, lost it on day 6, then reclaimed an advantage on the seventh day which she has not relinquished since. As the lead disappears, the bad news is that Joyon has an amazing run in this next 24 hours, a Southern Ocean style 425 mile day, followed by a 399 mile day tomorrow. The only good news is that he does actually slow down on Wednesday (162 miles) and Thursday (130 miles). Ellen's 232 mile lead at 0710 today is sadly going to turn to in to a significant deficit before the end of tomorrow. As Ellen said yesterday: 'If we cross the Equator ahead of Francis, it will be a miracle.'

Philosophical with her current predicament, Ellen comments: 'We need to remember that we're here...we could be in worse shape.' Now is the time for Ellen to physically recuperate properly from the rigours of the last 2 weeks. It is an opportunity that she must exploit to get herself physically back on track and use the downtime to check over B&Q for any signs of fatigue, so that when the wind comes back Ellen will be ready to put the pedal to the metal for home.

Team Ellen Media. Image: © OC/Ellen MacArthur
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