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7 February 2005, 10:49 am
So Near and Yet So Far
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Ellen MACARTHUR

<b>Update 16:46 114 Miles to Go</b> B&Q has increased speed and is now powering along at 20 knots but Ellen is having to bear away (turn away from the wind) which is taking her closer to the shipping lanes.
At this speed she is overtaking most of the shipping she encounters. Ellen is pleased to hear that there is a welcoming committee of dolphins awaiting her at the finish.

The official observer from the WSSRC (World Speed Sailing Records Council) is Claude Breton who will be positioned inside the lighthouse on Ushant to observe B&Q crossing the finish line. The trimaran must pass within sight of the observer but at night he can call the line on sight of the strobe light on B&Q's mast and via radar.

It was a slow and sleepless night for Ellen MacARTHUR as she tried to get through the weather transition into the new and more favourable breeze. B&Q only made 100 miles distance towards the finish in the last 24 hours and at times during the night was actually sailing away from the finish - not surprisingly her lead on the record has dropped to 1 day and 8 hours.

In comparison, Joyon on his 90ft multihull IDEC, was storming to the finish line clocking up 400+ miles in the same 24-hour period. Things can change quickly when MacArthur's 'virtual' competitor is having the opposite conditions to her - fast and in the right direction! B&Q was pushing eastwards most of yesterday as the northerly gale at the weekend slowly abated. The breeze was forecast to shift into the east and then south-east in the early hours of this morning. But the transition proved to be elusive with massive wind shifts of up to a 100 degrees forcing Ellen to tack the boat through the wind eleven times - one tack taking her towards the finish, the next away. It wasn't until just before sunrise that Ellen made what she hoped was the final tack to the north, although the permanence of the new wind direction is yet to be confirmed...

Ellen's hopes of making the finish line off Ushant this afternoon have all but disappeared although current routing models suggest crossing the line later tonight is still possible - current ETA between 2300GMT and 0600GMT. She still 217 miles to go and with breeze in the 8-15 knot range this morning, Ellen will be anxious for south-easterly wind to become more stable and stronger, so she can power on towards the finish line that is so tantalising close but yet still so far away. The new best 'guess' for actually arriving in Falmouth will be Tuesday morning at present, all being well onboard.

Ellen attacked the difficult sailing conditions of last night with a viewpoint that it was her last night at sea, and got just 15 minutes in total of sleep. The bad news for her this morning was that it doesn't look like it will be the last night. Getting some kind of naps will be critical for her today with extra vigilance also being required as she tracks across the Bay of Biscay quite close the route the cargo ships take from Finisterre to Ushant. On a call this morning Ellen admitted that she was really looking forward to seeing her family and friends, but that seeing land again would be a strange concept after so long at sea.

Joyon's 72 day, 22 hour, 54 minute world record rocked the sailing world when he crossed the finish line at 0654 GMT on 3 February 2004, taking 21 days off the previous solo record set by 2001 Vendée Globe winner, Michael DESJOYEAUX on his 60ft monohull PRB. As Ellen said before leaving: 'It is the kind of record that deserves to stand for a decade or more...' when she only gave herself a 25 per cent chance of even getting close to his time. Francis JOYON set out on 22 November 2003 on board his 90-foot trimaran to cross the start line off Brest. He subsequently set new solo times to every major landmark along the way - Equator, three Southern Ocean capes and back up to the Equator. IDEC covered 26,938.42 nautical miles at an average speed of 15.38 knots. Joyon chose to do his own weather routing for the trip and quietly and simply got on with the job. If one person can truly empathise with what MacArthur has been through so far it is Joyon - their respect and admiration for each other is mutual.

Team Ellen Media (As Amended by ISAF), Image: © Jacques Vapillon/DPPI
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