Ellen MacArthur and team are really putting B&Q to the test in the Southern Ocean. Apart from a broken rudder tip, everything is fine

Ellen MacArthur’s 75ft B&Q trimaran left Auckland five days ago on her delivery trip back to Europe via the Falkland Islands. She’s now being put through her paces in the Southern Ocean.

On board are skipper MacArthur, boat captain Loik Gallon and Mark Thomas – Loik and Mark are sailing with MacArthur as far as the Falkland Islands and from there, she will embark on first solo voyage.

As with any new, hi-tech boats the first days of offshore sailing have presented its challenges but the overall feeling from on board is one of immense relief: MacArthur said: “It’s so great to be out here again, tackling little problems, sleeping hearing the water rushing past her hulls, and just being at sea again. I feel like I’m back in my element. Very happy – albeit very tired, and more than any other feeling – feeling so very, very lucky…”

Forty-eight hours ago a sudden bang on board revealed the tip (20cm) of the rudder on the starboard float had been snapped off after an impact with a submerged object. It took less than an hour for the crew to replace the rudder with a spare carried on board. MacArthur has also had her first trip up the mast after the genoa head lashing broke at the top of the furler. They reefed down and hoisted the small jib as the repairs were made and a after two hours they were back on course.

B&Q left Auckland in a high pressure zone that moved east with them for the first 48 hours. As the trimaran progresses eastwards and south, both the breeze and the seaway has begun to build as the pressure slowly but surely starts to drop. B&Q at 1200GMT was 48 degrees south and 156 west having covered 1,400 miles with approximately 3,100 miles to go to Cape Horn. Conditions on board are getting cold both as air and sea temperatures drop. McArthur continued: “Looks like the sky may well be grey for a while now… There is more breeze moving in behind us now – we have about 30kts from west-north-west – and the pressure is slowly but surely falling. We looked at a gybe today – but I think we’ll carry on port for a while… With the wind conming in stronger from the north-west I don’t want to find that we’re running downwind and heading into the ice. A bit of runway could well be prudent!

“I’m pretty much out of the watch system, and the guys are running three on/off from 1800Z to 0600Z, and then four on four off from 0600 to 1800. Food seems very good, and no-one going hungry! The charging systems are all OK – we’re charging three to four times a day – each time for an hour…which feels great.

“We’re easing into the sailing – not pushing too hard – and just easing her up when we feel that she’s really loading. Little by little we want to progress, not forgetting that this is just her delivery trip.”