Ellen MacArthur has made the decision to sail direct to New York for her first solo record attempt - the west-east transatlantic record

After crossing the Equator on Thursday last week, Ellen MacArthur has made the decision to sail direct to New York for her first solo record attempt – the west-east transatlantic record currently held by Laurent Bourgnon of just over seven days. Barring any major problems and subject to the right weather window, Ellen hopes to take B&Q on her first record attempt during May.

Her 14,000-mile solo delivery trip on board the new 75ft B&Q trimaran which started from New Zealand 39 days ago, has been a great proving ground for the performance of the trimaran. So far the Nigel-Irens-designed trimaran is exceeding expectation both in its performance and handling. MacArthur said: “Though physically demanding, she is a joy to sail, and I really am very pleased with how she performs, under pilot, and in various conditions. In big waves she is unbelievable – skimming over them, haring down them.”

The journey began when B&Q left the shores of Sydney where she was launched on 8 January to sail to New Zealand for a full boat testing period. MacArthur then sailed from Auckland (NZ) to the Falkland Islands with her delivery crew of Loik Gallon and Mark Thomas. B&Q’s performance in the Southern Ocean was not only reassuring but also revealed the boat’s potential in the big sea conditions. The next major test was for MacArthur to handle the 75ft trimaran on her own. And the result is so far, so good.

B&Q is due to arrive in New York early next week (week commencing 19 April 04). The shore team will be in New York to meet Ellen and start on the preparation work for the record attempt whilst looking at possible weather windows for a departure from early May.

McArthur continued: “It’s fantastic to be out here and it’s great to be sailing solo again. Our delivery trip so far has been great, though a little slow due to a real lack of wind along the Brazilian coast. What should have taken a couple of days sailing has actually taken more than four.

“Last night was wonderful sailing – the sea was pretty flat, there wasn’t a drop of spray onboard and we were averaging 17kts. The wind was around the 13kt mark, and the moon so bright above us that you could have read a book in it’s light! Nice though it is, there is a very real feeling that a record attempt is unlikely to hold much of this ‘peaceful’ sailing, so right now I am trying to make the most of it, and really ‘test’ the boat at various moments. One of those unfortunately led to another ascent of the mast (which seems to be my trademark) when the lashing at the head of the genoa chafed and broke under load. We live and learn, but I am glad that I’ve climbed the mast, and had a lack of wind on this trip – let’s hope that’s one thing ticked off the list.

Though there is, without doubt, a list of work to undertake, I am happy enough with the boats current state to attempt a transatlantic record attempt on our way home to Europe. Hence our first port of call in the northern hemisphere is looking like New York – unless I have a major failure in the next week or so.

“I am really excited about undertaking the record – and looking forward to many more miles under our three hulls, all being well at record breaking pace!”

Transatlantic current record details

The West East Transatlantic Record – Ambrose Lighthouse (NY, USA) to Lizard Point (Cornwall, UK)

Skipper: Laurent Bourgnon

Time: 7 days, 2 hours, 34 mins, 42 sec

Av speed: 17.15knots

Distance: 2925 miles

Boat: 60ft trimaran, Primagaz

Date: June 1994