B&Q's arrival in Taiwan was delayed by light airs, customs clearance and fishing boats 20/4/06

Round the world yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacArthur crossed the finish line off Taipei at 18:20:36 GMT yesterday, (Wednesday 19 April) to finish leg five of the Asian Record Circuit – the halfway mark. This established the sixth record on the circuit in an elapsed time of 3d 1m 55s.

It has been yet another challenging leg for Ellen and the crew onboard B&Q. The 580-mile leg from Shanghai to Taipei saw frustration for everyone onboard as they were thwarted by light airs, navigating through a sea of boats and the delay waiting for customs clearance.

Since Taiwan claimed independence after the Communist victory in mainland China in 1949, an uneasy relationship has existed. A repercussion of this is that there is no direct navigational route between mainland China and Taiwan, and all shipping must clear customs in Japanese waters before entering Taiwan.

Ellen and the crew had to wait for customs clearance at a waypoint off Ishigaki Island in Japanese waters, and light conditions delayed their estimated arrival time, forcing them to wait overnight until a customs boat was available to clear them for their onward journey.

Ellen claims: “This has been a hard leg for everyone onboard, as at times it really felt like everything was stacked against us reaching Taipei, and sailing to a schedule means we do not have the luxury of choosing our weather window, but we are certainly glad to have crossed the finish line and to have reached Taiwan.

“One of the most unbelievable moments on this trip was during the second night at sea where we had a situation where fishing boat after fishing boat mounted up around us. Once dark the scene was surreal. I can only compare it to being out on the water during the fire works display in Cowes Week, or during the Royal Navy Fleet Review where the water was literally thick with boats. It wasn’t only boats but also their nets, cages and floats – marked with green and red flashing lights, as well as fixed green and red lights – funnily enough their were identical to our navigation lights!!

“There were also cargo ships steaming through – and I have no idea how they don’t take out the fishing boats, there were hundreds – literally. At the beginning of the night as it was going starting to go dark Loik counted 47 – and then they multiplied – massively. I would estimate that there were at least 150 if not 200 in view – and at least as many floats and lights. This circuit could not be further from attempting a solo record around the world where 90% of the time we are sailing offshore – thousands of miles from land at times, where encountering shipping becomes a rarity. Sailing in these waters one of the biggest contrasts is the amount of vessels we are encountering every day and night of this tour. It really is quite incredible and we all have to be constantly vigilant to avoid disaster. It’s a very different kind of challenge and so far as been an eye-opening experience for all of us.”

Ellen and her crew of four were also joined by Elaine Chua, aged 28, from Singapore who became the first Asian woman to compete and finish the 4,200-mile Mini Transat solo race in 2005. The opportunity to race onboard B&Q is a great opportunity for Elaine: “I’d like to be involved in bigger open classes. Offshore racing has become my passion and this is as a once in a lifetime opportunity to sail on a boat like this with Ellen and the crew who are fantastic!”

Having arrived into Taipei later than expected, there was a quick turnaround as the crew prepared the trimaran for the 465-mile leg to Hong Kong. They departed today at 1:29:55 GMT to start Leg 6 to Hong Kong. The crew have set themselves a target time of two days 16 hours for this next record.

The Colonial Record [Taipei to Hong Kong] marks the penultimate leg within Chinese waters, as B&Q will then head south towards Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore. The Colonial record was named after Hong Kong became a powerful port and gateway to Asia and held an increasing interest for Occidental countries.

Leg 6 to Hong Kong will also signal a big change in the temperature onboard B&Q which continues to rise as they sail south. Travelling southwards means getting deeper into the Trade Winds as the predominant north to north-east winds will be replaced by consistent easterly winds at the southern tip of Taiwan.

New records established so far:

1. Yokohama-Jeju Island 5d 11h 10m 51s (906nm)
2. Jeju Island-Dalian 1d 15h 57m 28s (418nm)
3. The Manchu Record (Yokoham – Dalian) 7d 3h 18m 19s (1324nm)
4. The Marco Polo Record (Dalian – Qingdao) 1d 0h 2m 53s (265nm)
5. The Cotton Record (Qingdao – Shanghai) 1d 5h 25m 33s (308nm)
6. The Old Tea Record (Shanghai – Taipei) 3d 0h 1m 55s (580nm)


21-23 April
Leg 6: Taipei to Hong Kong

24-30 April
Stopover: Hong Kong

1-7 May
Leg 7: Hong Kong to Sanya (Hainan Island)
Leg 8: Sanya to Nha Trang, Vietnam
Leg 9: Nha Trang to Terengganu, Malaysia

8- 11 May
Stopover: Terengganu

11-12 May
Leg 10: Terengganu to Singapore

13-17 May
Stopover: Singapore