More stress for Ellen MacArthur as she enters the 'icefields'

At 0430 GMT this morning Ellen MacArthur on her global record attempt reported that she had spotted two large 20m icebergs just two miles to her north [B&Q position 50 58 degrees south / 175 52 degrees east at that time].

Commenting from the boat MacArthur said: “I can see them [icebergs] off to port… I’m nervous, like you would be, I’ve to go back on deck. I only have four hours left of daylight, by then I hope I’m passed the worst part…”

The knowledge of this ice zone has dictated B&Q’s path to the north in the last 48 hours, although the icebergs seen by Ellen a few hours ago are positioned extremely far north as the sun sets, it will be a very tense time on board B&Q for the next few hours of darkness.

Since 1900 GMT yesterday, B&Q has sustained boat speeds in excess of 20 knots in a good S-SW 20-26 knot breeze and MacArthur has now sailed 14,640 miles at an average speed of 17.4 knots as she heads into day 35 of her solo, non-stop round the world record attempt.

Although fast, B&Q is starting to lose some of the heard-earned two and a half day advantage, as B&Q heads slightly north of east having sailed north of Joyon’s historical track, crossing back over IDEC’S track for only the second time on this Southern Ocean leg.

It is a relentless challenge to try and break Francis Joyon’s record of 72 days, 22 hours and 54 minutes – the only man to have set a new world record for solo, non-stop around the world on a multihull. The pace continues to push MacArthur to her physical and mental limits, although MacArthur is managing her sleep programme well. Sleep expert, Dr Claudio Stampi, who has worked with MacArthur for the past five years, said: “For now I can say that over the past five days, MacArthur has been doing a good and judicious job in terms of sleep management.” MacArthur wears a bio-monitor that records the time she is resting, calorie expenditure and stress levels and this data is sent back to Dr Stampi for analysis.

MacArthur has averaged over 6 hours sleep in every 24 hours in the last five days – her lowest amount of sleep, just 1h 32m was on the 28 December as B&Q suffered gale-force conditions for the third time. The sleep is taken in short ‘cat-naps’ of 10, 20, 30 or sometimes 40 minutes. Undoubtedly, sleep will be difficult in the current environment and with the squally conditions that are passing through with each cold front bringing unstable winds, both in speed and direction, with strong gusts for the next 48 hours.

Now at 50 55 degrees south and 177 16 degrees east, B&Q is fast approaching the International Date Line [at 180 degrees east in this part of the Southern Ocean] from which point on, instead of counting up eastern degrees she will be counting down the western degrees as MacArthur makes the transition from the Indian Ocean into the Pacific for B&Q’s passage to Cape Horn (approximately 4,000 miles to the east).