Ellen MacArthur aboard B&Q is now two days ahead of the global speed record

In the last 24 hours Ellen MacArthur on her global record attempt has been sailing in a north-north-westerly 24-32 knot breeze and averaging over 20knots of boat speed which now puts her two days ahead of Francis Joyon’s current record time.

Chatting from the boat she said: “?We’re smokin’. Put staysail down and swapped to Solent to go deeper and further south. We’re 28 knots right now, nice, and earlier did 32.29 knots not bad with a wind speed of 28 knots, almost a record. I think 36 knots is the fastest so far on B&Q.”

These fast speeds have resulted in MacArthur breaking the two-day barrier in her lead over Joyon’s record for the first time in her solo record attempt. As MacArthur approaches the midway barrier, another 500 miles further along the race track her mindset remains pragmatic, as the fact remains that only one man in history has raced solo, non-stop around the world on a multihull: “It’s a long, long way home, it’s not over until its over and Francis’ time is the only record time.”

Keeping the 75ft multihull in order is an ongoing daily task with a job list that keeps getting longer as B&Q undergoes more wear and tear in the harsh Southern Ocean conditions: MacArthur continued:”When I put the Solent up earlier, I looked at halyard only two strands left, lucky we were downwind. If it had parted the halyard would have ended up in the mast, I felt very lucky to have spotted it. So I have re-spliced it and spent two hours doing it. It had broken just like gennaker halyard on the Vendée [4 years ago], right on the end of the splice sitting on the sheave at top of mast. Lucky it didn’t come down, only two strands of the kevlar halyard were left, that’s only one-tenth of diameter. You earn your luck a bit, but that was lucky!”

Then there’s more to come as MacArthur considers a rig check, if conditions allow, before entering the second leg of the Southern Ocean – the Pacific Ocean: “I’ve redone the lashing tack of the Solent, and I’ve switched the runner cover over. I’ve got some water in the back beam. Going to wait until gennaker [Solent] out of the way though, it’s too hard at the moment. I’ve got a few other things to do. Might do a rig check as we get closer to New Zealand and check the lashings at the top of the mast. Be good to do before entering next part of the south…”

Keeping a handle on all the jobs that need to be done is an important psychological achievement: “I feel on top of things, even in the bad stuff, I kept checking, kept problem solving, never putting things off until later. I think I’m better at that now than I ever have been. I have made an improvement on myself!

“Have just done my first charge without having to restart the generator, it was so refreshing!” Previously due to the violent motion, MacArthur has had to manually restart it every few minutes, making it impossible to rest for the hours of charging necessary to keep the batteries going, and hence the auto-pilots and everything else. The sea state may be flatter but the depth has decreased sharply as B&Q passes over an ‘ocean mountain’: “We’re just going over a seamount, 1600 metres of depth from 3200 metres. I find all that stuff fascinating… We know so little about the ocean floor…”

The plan for MacArthur now is to dive south as a wall of high pressure stretches across MacArthur’s path from south-east Tasmania down to 50-51 degrees south and 160-165 degrees east. Commanders’ are advising MacArthur to head south of the light wind zone but then come back up to pass north of Campbell Island sometime on Sunday. This will increase the north-south divide between IDEC and B&Q, currently 600 miles, but not to B&Q’s advantage as MacArthur will be sailing more miles to get south around the light winds but then back north-east to avoid the ice. The objective is to keep B&Q away from the ice area to the ESE of Campbell Island which is situated 350 miles south of mainland New Zealand. This is also the same path taken by Joyon once he had cleared the south-east cape of Tasmania.