Following the safe delivery of the 75-foot trimaran B&Q to New York earlier this week, Ellen MacArthur has announced her plans to officially go on standby from the 1st September for her assault on the west-east solo transatlantic record. The record currently stands at 6 days, 4 hours, 1 minute and 37 seconds after French skipper, Francis Joyon, sailing his 90-foot multihull IDEC smashed the 11-year-old solo record by 22 hours on the 6th July this year.
Now the stage is set for another showdown can MacArthur achieve the extraordinary and break Joyon's solo transatlantic record? It is an almost over-whelming challenge in a boat that is 15-foot shorter and with a smaller sail area. MacArthur will have to race B&Q flat-out, riding one weather system across the 2925-mile North Atlantic course, with no margin for error.
MacArthur made the announcement whilst still in New York following the delivery trip from the UK via Newfoundland: 'B&Q safely arrived in New York and since then we have been making final preparations to have her ready to go on standby from next Thursday, 1st September. She will be ready soon as will I but, for now, it is a case of sitting tight and waiting for the right weather system to come along that will get us across the North Atlantic in one go - these kind of weather systems don't appear that often so I will have to be patient but, then again, the clock is already ticking as we only have a standby window open until the end of October - after that I have to be back in Europe for another race.'
The start line for the west-east solo transatlantic record is off Ambrose Light, approximately 20 miles outside New York habour with the finish line off Lizard Point on the south-west coast of England. The theorectical course distance is 2925 miles across the North Atlantic and MacArthur will have to average over 19.75 knots to break Joyon's time requiring a wind speed average of over 20 knots. 'To be honest, it is a really tall order and Francis has again set an incredibly high benchmark but we will give it our best,'
said MacArthur. The B&Q skipper will be working with the same weather routers from her solo round the world record, Commanders' Weather based in the States: 'We can only really seriously look at the weather up to 7 days ahead and if we see something developing, we will keep an eye on it and change our standby modes accordingly. Normally, you need to start just ahead of the advancing weather system then you hook into it and try and sail fast enough to stay with it, and hope that it takes you on the most direct and shortest course across the Atlantic. If the weather system deviates too much from the direct course it will not help our cause as we will have to sail more miles.'
It is a bit like riding the 'perfect wave' ? you must get on it at Ambrose Light and not fall off until the finish, and hope the wave goes all the way to the English Channel without tapering out or heading north which is what happened last June as B&Q missed out on the record by just 75 minutes. Unlike the round the world record, where all types of wind strength are guaranteed, light conditions at the Equator, for example (in which B&Q probably performs better than Joyon's IDEC due to her light weight), and strong conditions in the Southern Ocean and North Atlantic (where IDEC performs better due to her size and power), on the transatlantic it is only possible to break the record if there are strong conditions all the way. So any advantage of the newer B&Q does not exist for this mad six-day sprint.
And this time MacArthur is not the only player... Also waiting in the wings is another French skipper, Thomas Coville and his 60-foot trimaran Sodebo. After establishing a new Miami-New York solo record in July, Coville has been on standby in New York since the beginning of August and there is every possibility that Sodebo and B&Q will end up starting together both grabbing the same weather system when it comes along.
MacArthur will not sit-out the standby period in New York but will return to Europe and monitor the weather situation daily, only returning to the States once a favourable weather system has been identified.
The solo transatlantic record must be broken by a minimum of 60 seconds, therefore B&Q must finish in a time of 6 days, 4 hours, 0 minutes and 37 seconds or less.