Ellen MacArthur is now one day, eight hours ahead of the record but is preparing for her entry into the doldrums tomorrow

Ellen MacArthur is now one day, eight hours (270 miles) ahead of the current record holder, Francis Joyon at this stage of the global speed record challenge.

MacArthur, sailing the 75ft trimaran B&Q, is tracking fast up the Atlantic towards the Equator. Looking back at Joyon’s VMG at this stage he only made 162 miles yesterday compared to MacArthur’s 388 miles, and just 130 miles today.

But it’s still early days and MacArthur may well have to sacrifice her lead as she negotiates the doldrums tomorrow, she is already thinking about her offering to Neptune at the Equator commenting: “I haven’t decided yet what to give to Neptune but it will be the most precious thing I have to give to get us home.”

Overnight average wind speeds ranged between 13-19 knots and continued to turn further into the south. With the present wind angle and sea conditions, B&Q can carry full main and genoa up to 15 knots, changing down to Solent jib when the breeze starts to tip over the 15 knot mark, then 1 reef in the mainsail as it edges towards 20 knots. Sailing with the wind coming from a more southerly direction will provide a more stable ride compared to the uncomfortable reaching conditions of yesterday.

B&Q should reach Equator in the early hours of tomorrow morning aiming for a crossing at 30-29 degrees west. Joyon, who got stuck close to the coast of Brazil in his approach to the Equator, crossed much further west at 32 degrees west. He was fortunate to sail IDEC straight through, even picking up the north-east Trade Winds south of the Equator. The pressure is on MacArthur to get across the Equator and to the doldrums, currently positioned at 1-3 degrees north, as soon as possible. Latest satellite imagery is showing the doldrums activity increasing after 1800 GMT tomorrow.

The main doldrum activity appears to be west of 30 degrees west stretching over a 180 mile area north-south. Ellen will be aiming to pass through the narrowest band of doldrum activity between 30-28 degrees west, although Commanders’ Weatherstill expect this band to be around 120 miles across. Today the breeze is expected to stay in the 15-20 knot range before starting to back towards the east as B&Q gets close to the Equator.

The outlook north of the Equator is showing north-east and east-north-east trade winds filling in around 3-4 degrees north increasing steadily as MacArthur pushes northwards. The key objective for MacArthur once back in the northern hemisphere will be not to get pushed west of 35 degrees west as winds will be much lighter from 12 degrees north. A low moving north towards the Azores will provide some fast sailing conditions early next week but a huge high pressure sitting to the west of Scotland will prove critical to B&Q’s route to the finish depending on which way it moves.