A stressful time in 46 knots of wind, boatspeed over 30 knots, but is a slowdown ahead?

This afternoon, B&Q is approximately 1140 miles west of the Crozet Islands [the Kerguelens are another 660 miles down the course] having covered 8086 miles of the round the world race course so far.

Ellen is now over 22 hours ahead of Joyon’s time but doubts that this can be extended much more in the days to come: “I’m not sure we will make a day ahead of Francis because now we’ve begun to slow and shortly we’re going to gybe and head to the east. Now the sea conditions are quite big and the wind conditions are quite light so that’s going to make boats speeds very slow.

“The issue is that, although there’s a new weather system coming in from the west and we stand to make some good miles, the sea conditions are actually very rough and trying to go fast in these conditions is not going to be easy. So I’ve got a question mark over how many more miles we can take in the short term, and looking at that in the longer term, in a few days time around the Kerguelen Island area there looks like there is literally going to be no wind.”

MacArthur had an adrenalin-pumping night of Southern Ocean sailing in strong NW winds: “Last night was pretty stressful – it certainly had its moments. When the breeze went up to 46 knots and I was doing a fairly delicate sail change with boat speed in excess of 30 knots – I had to work so hard to get the sails changed that the back of my throat felt like it was going to drop out, it was burning.”

And it was just not the winds that were huge but the sea state too: “Its like driving an all-terrain vehicle very fast over mountains [but] the mountains are moving! It is absolutely spectacular and the seas really are big.”

The strong breeze is expected to decrease to around 18-25 knots as B&Q negotiates a weak ridge of high pressure this evening. But the next big low pressure system is on its way and by Sunday night the wind will increase to 30-40 knots with rough sea state.

In advance of this low, Ellen will gybe back on to port as the breeze clocks round from WSW to NW heading east near 44-45 degrees south. “The breeze is beginning to die off now which is flattening things out a little bit.”

Current routeing shows B&Q to stay well south of Joyon’s track for now – the north-south difference is approximately 370 miles at this stage but this looks set to increase as Ellen pushes back south mid-next week after passing the Crozet Islands on Tuesday.

The drama of the Southern Ocean is only matched by its sheer beauty: “The sunrise was amazing – the light fantastic, and the seabirds, as ever, around us all the time…” .

Heaven or hell, Ellen has up to another 28 days of the Southern Ocean to go: “In another four weeks, we’re be heading out of here and heading home. Day 21 today and I’ve finished my week 3 food bag, it will be 4 next which is quite cool, and when I finish week 5 we’ll be halfway round!”