Ellen MacArthur on her global speed record attempt is now just three hours behind Joyon's time

Ellen MacArthur on her global speed record attempt is positioning herself to the east-north-east in preparation of strong cold front that will hit on Christmas day.

In the meantime despite clocking up speeds in excess of 20 knots at times during the night, and clocked up 416 miles in the last 24 hours, this has not prevented the advantage over Joyon being dramatically reduced as Ellen pushes B&Q north-east to position herself for the Christmas Day storm that is approaching from behind.

Crossing Joyon’s track, for the first time on this Southern Ocean stretch, B&Q is now 120 miles north of Joyon and MacArthur’s lead of 15 hours yesterday morning, has all but disappeared to just 3 hours 37 minutes this morning.

But that is of little concern to MacArthur right now, as the biggest worry is getting to the north putting as much distance between herself and the huge depression in the south that is generating the gale to storm force conditions for tonight and tomorrow.

As MacArthur said two days ago: “It is going to hit us, we can’t get away from this one.” Gale-force conditions are forecast bringing 35-45 knots of wing [Force 8], gusting in excess of 50 knots [Force 9-10] generating mountainous seas – it will be self-preservation both for MacArthur and B&Q. The greatest concern is that the wind will be blowing from a northerly direction as Ellen tries to head east keeping in front of the storm.

The two effects of this is that, firstly, the existing westerly swell will mix with the new northerly swell creating a dangerous mogul field of huge waves and, secondly, with the wind from the north, Ellen cannot run downwind which would decrease apparent wind angle [and thefore the effective wind strength] and surf down the northerly swell as this would take her south closer and closer to the centre of the depression and even more wind and even bigger seas.

MacArthur will be forced to try and sail on a reach, 90 degrees true wind angle, which is very powered-up and one of the most dangerous points of sail for a multihull as they are supercharged at this angle, and at increased risk of nose-diving.