Ellen MacArthur and her five-person team aboard Kingfisher has started the 2,800 mile Regatta Du Rubicon and is currently just 6.7 miles behind the leader

Ellen MacArthur and her five-person team aboard Kingfisher has started the 2,800 mile Regatta Du Rubicon (first leg), the first major build up regatta to the Route De Rhum solo race in November.

The race, which started on Saturday from from St Nazaire (Brittany), takes the fleet via Lanzarote to the finish in Santa Margarita (Italy), and the first boat is expected to finish by the end of May.

The first 24 hours in to the race didn’t go as smoothly as expected for Team Kingfisher when a problem with the daggerboard gave cause for concern. Ellen commented: “We had a shocker with the daggerboard just after start and almost lost it out through the bottom of the boat but it’s okay now because we’ve fixed it. “Inevitably, we also have some computer problems after a complete upgrade. While we realise that just before the race is not the ideal time to upgrade, we wanted to use the Rubicon to really work all our new systems to get them right for the Route du Rhum. “Everyone onboard is fine, and Kingfisher is not slow – we able to take height at same speed as most, although Bilou rode over us yesterday evening – we are hanging in there though, and happy to be out here. “Its been a long time. We lost some miles over night due to a batten problem, we had to lower the mainsail for repairs. All is okay now and we’re back up to speed.”

According to a recent weather forecast, MacArthur and her crew are likely to face some of the toughest conditions that Kingfisher will have seen since the Vendee Globe. Apparently a storm with 45-50 knot headwinds is heading west across the Atlantic and is due to hit the fleet near Cape Finistere.

Race Positions (at 0900 GMT 12/05/2002)

TISCALI GLOBAL CHALLENGE: Simone BIANCHETTI, 1133.1 miles to finish

BOBST GROUP-ARMOR LUX: Bernard STAMM, 2.5 miles behind leader

Sill Plein Fruit: Jourdain, 2.6 miles behind leader

KINGFISHER: MacArthur, 6.7 miles behind leader

TEMENOS: Dominique WAVRE, 7.7 miles behind leader

VIRBAC: Jean Pierre DICK, 22.0 miles behind leader

ADECCO-ETOILE HORIZON : Bob ESCOFFIER, 41.7 miles behind leader