MacArthur is now over two-and-a-half days ahead of the record

Ellen MacArthur is having a good start to 2005 on board the B&Q: she set a new personal best 24-hour run of 484.5 miles for this record attempt [previous best 481 miles] and continues to build on her two and a half day advantage over Joyon.

“We’re still averaging 18 knots, I’ve got full main and gennaker up. We have been so lucky, we’ve been just smokin’ the last few days, just doing great. And, to be honest, ahead of us does not look too bad either – it doesn’t look like we’re going to get fried by anything yet… Looks like there is going to be good breeze for the Horn so let’s just keep our fingers crossed and hope.”

Since early this morning, though, lighter winds have slowed B&Q’s progress and as she heads north of east, away from the direct course, to get north of Campbell Island and her 2.5-day advantage will more than likely start to slip.

B&Q is 95 miles west of Campbell Island, approximately 350 miles south of mainland New Zealand, sailing under full mainsail and gennaker as MacArthur prepares to gybe back on to starboard to start heading ESE again after passing the Island. As the north-westerly winds of yesterday started to back further into the west, B&Q gybed on to port to head north of east, taking evasive action to keep away from the threatening ice zone that is located ESE of Campbell Island.

A series of icebergs have been reported in this part of the ocean, many of them seen by the Vendée Globe skippers. MacArthur was highly concerned yesterday as the sea temperature plummeted – the first indication of potential ice – to 6.1 degrees and that, combined with dense fog, made sailing fast in pitch darkness pretty stressful.

This course to the north of Campbell Island will bring about a convergence of B&Q’s track with that of Joyon’s historical track on board IDEC. Joyon got pinned further north until after Tasmania then made quick progress to the south. MacArthur is coming from the opposite direction and has kept ahead by sailing faster averages and sailing a shorter course further south.

From this point on, MacArthur will be sailing along the same 50-53 degree south corridor of latitude as Joyon, as she tries to keep B&Q in strong south-westerly conditions to get to Cape Horn 4,200 miles further to the east, the point that marks the exit from the Southern Ocean.

The milder conditions of the last 12 hours, presented MacArthur with an opportunity to salvage the Christmas Box that had been stashed away during the series of storms over Christmas: “I managed to open some Christmas presents – got some great gifts! Not sure what came from who but guessed a few of them. Oli [Build Project Manager] got me some purple, light-up dice and Loik [Boat Captain] got me a Scooby Doo nodding dog which is now sitting firmly on my chart table, nodding away! When Scooby nods full-on, I will know its rough!!

“Lots of other stuff from Mum and Dad, a Christmas pudding – very cool, all very cool. I actually had time to sit and open stuff which was great.”

In reaction to the catastrophic disaster that caused so much devastation, Ellen’s New Year thoughts were centred on the suffering this has caused: “I think the biggest thought on my mind for New Year is the disaster that’s happened in the Indian Ocean and all the death and trauma that it’s caused. My biggest wish for New Year is that the situation can come back as close to normal as soon as possible, with as least pain as possible?”