KINGFISHER2 and her 14 strong crew did not pass the line as intended this morning after discovering a technical problem on the mast track at first light this morning.
KINGFISHER2 was just miles from the start line off of Ushant primed to go, when the crew noticed a problem with the mainsail track - a metal runner that goes the full length of the mast, on which the mainsail runs up and down. A critical element that must be at 100% to race the boat to her full potential.
Ellen explained by satellite phone the reasons for the delay - "To start a 26,000 mile race around the world without being in 100% form would not be a good move, and we made the decision just after 0900gmt to head for calmer waters for a fuller inspection and eventual repair. We have done some good hard miles in the current configuration, and the conditions we have experienced since we left Lorient have been difficult but nothing out of the ordinary. Further investigation will no doubt provide the answer."
The current plan is to sail under headsail towards the shelter of Plymouth, south west England arriving tomorrow where the shore team will meet the giant catamaran and work on getting the team back to sea as soon as possible.
The choice of Plymouth will assist an easier possible departure later in the week with the strong northerly winds forecast to continue (northerly winds being in the direction of the start line from Plymouth).
Whilst of course disappointed, Ellen, the crew and the shore team are already fully focused on the solution, and a restart as soon as possible in 100% condition. "Obviously the guys are very disappointed, but everyone has actually taken this setback well...we are already very much on to the detail of resolving the problem and getting on with the job of sailing around the world,"
commented MacArthur by satellite phone this morning.
Meeno Schrader the weather router has confirmed that this weather window may well stay open until the weekend.
KINGFISHER2 slipped her mooring lines and left her base in Lorient, at 1420 GMT yesterday to sail to the Jules Verne start line off of the island of Ushant to begin their assault on the non-stop round the world record.
This passage could take between 10 and 14 hours. Once KINGFISHER2 has reached the start area they will review the weather situation for the exact start time. Gaining a few hours by choosing the best moment to leave could of course make the difference in the end.
Skipper, Ellen MacArthur, and her 13 crew representing 6 different nationalities said goodbye to their families and friends gathered in Lorient. There was tension in the air, as each crewman said their final goodbyes, on the dockside or on the phone. It was time to get on with the job. "We have done everything we can to prepare and now it is time to race,"
said MacArthur. "It is always hard for everyone to say goodbye but I cannot wait to get out there. For me it is a big responsibility to be skipper - ultimately the safety of this boat and crew rests on my shoulders. But we are here for a record attempt and everyone is committed to try to break that record. The weather is key and right now we have reasonable conditions for departure, but more importantly good conditions predicted further south, which is key to enable a fast link in to the trade winds and on towards the Equator. The first target will be the 6 day record to get there."
Of course the main target for KINGFISHER2 is to break the existing Jules Verne record of 64 days, 8 hours, 37 minutes and 24 seconds set by Bruno Peyron on board `Orange` in May last year OR a new record that could be set by Olivier de Kersuason on `Geronimo` who is currently on the Jules Verne race track in the Southern Ocean now 17 days into his record attempt. "At the start KINGFISHER2 will be loaded up with nearly a ton of stores,"
commented MacArthur. "So we have to take it easy and not risk the boat when she is at her heaviest - it`s a balance of pushing as much as we can but always to preserve the boat. You have to finish, to win"
In the Jules Verne history that began in 1993 there have been 11 Jules Verne record attempts - but only four of them successful. It is a sobering thought.
Previous record holders:
1993 Commodore Explorer/Bruno Peyron 79 days 6 hours 15 mins 56 seconds
1994 ENZA New Zealand/Peter Blake & Robin Knox Johnston 74 days 22 hours 17 minutes 22 seconds
1997 Sport Elec/Olivier de Kersauson 71 days 14 hours 22 minutes 8 seconds
2002 Orange/Bruno Peyron 64 days 8 hours 37 minutes 24 seconds