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3 February 2005, 11:24 am
Azores Puts The Brakes On
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Ellen MACARTHUR

The Azores put the brakes on B&Q losing hours on the clock and reducing MacArthur's advantage to three days, six hours this morning - a high price too pay both on the record stakes but also physically for Ellen, who is now beyond exhaustion - only 20 minutes sleep in the last 24 hours, and very little in the preceding days.
In order for B&Q to avoid the possibility of a wind shadow from the island of Sao Miguel to the east (with winds coming from that direction), B&Q aimed to go through the gap with Terceira on the western side, but equally to stay 15-20 miles off this island as well to avoid local effects. However the 'funnel effect' between the islands, even at 80 miles apart, caused the wind to head B&Q (come more from the north), forcing her closer in to the island on starboard tack as she approached - too close as it turned out: 'Can't believe what we've been through. We stopped for two hours with two knots of breeze from the wrong direction, we were so close to the island. The breeze went into the north-west and we were heading back towards the island, only 14 miles away. We've moved some, we've stopped, we've talked about tacking, we've been taking reefs out, putting reefs in, we've had 22 knots then we've had 4 knots, then 19 knots, the whole **** fight.'

The boat data at 0710 this morning was grim - boat speed 0.72 knots, True Wind Speed 4.2 knots, True Wind Direction 290 degrees (WNW), 180 degrees opposite of forecast gradient win. Another call came two hours later: 'Even since I last called two hours ago we've done 7 gybes [manoeuvre that turns the stern of the boat through the wind, sails switching side, fairly complicated one alone]. The wind was going round in circles, it's back now though. I'm totally drained. I hope the wind doesn't go higher, I don't want to have to change from the genoa [to a smaller headsail]. Somehow I've got to rest...going to ring Commanders and then try and sleep.' It's now looking like <<B&Q>> is through as latest boat data shows B&Q moving at over 11 knots but it's going to get much lighter by tonight as MacArthur negotiates the high pressure system blocking her route ahead.

26,000 miles sailed and still just over 1,000 miles to go, and certainly more miles to sail through the water due to the forecast wind directions, this will be a long round the world. The theoretical distance being around 23,700 miles, the typical voyage being around 26,000 miles, it's a sign of the unhelpful wind conditions in the Atlantic in particular that have pushed up the overal mileage sailed around the course. Joyon passed west of Sao Miguel without slowing down too much - 212 miles Distance Made Good towards the finish today, but slow tomorrow 162 miles but from Saturday the 90ft multihull IDEC picks up the speed and from Sunday his daily mileage averages around the 400 mile mark for the final sprint to the finish line.

Light winds, calm, gales, rough seas all still to come in the remaining few days of MacArthur's solo, non-stop round the world record attempt. The next 24-36 hour period is going to be slow as Ellen negotiates the area of high pressure and by the weekend a strong northerly gale is being forecast - 30-40 knots [Force 8 Gale] and very rough seas. Whatever the outcome, the final stretch is going to be hard - hard on the boat and hard on Ellen. Like a Formula 1 car running on empty, or a runner hitting the wall, these last miles are likely to be the toughest of them all.

Team Ellen (As Amended by ISAF)
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