Ellen MacArthur, sailing the 75-multihull B&Q, is only 3.5 hours shy of a 5 day lead on her global speed record attempt

Ellen MacArthur, sailing the 75-multihull B&Q, is only 3.5 hours shy of a 5 day lead, currently standing at 4 days, 21 hours and 38 minutes [representing 15.90 per cent of the time remaining for Ellen to break the record] at 1510 GMT yesterday afternoon and is only 50 miles short of having covered 18,000 miles at an average speed of 17.7 knots.

With just over 1,000 miles to go to the legendary Cape Horn – the final Southern Ocean cape to pass before turning left and into the South Atlantic – MacArthur has been setting a blistering pace in favourable north-westerly conditions averaging between 20 and 24 knots.

Through the night her 24-hour distance runs hovered around the 490 mile mark, then at 1310 GMT (yesterday afternoon) the latest data showed a recorded 24 hour run of 501.6 miles at an average speed of 20.9 knots, setting a new personal best for MacArthur on this solo, round the world record attempt.

MacArthur has sailed faster over a 24 hour period – on her solo west-east transatlantic record attempt in June 2004, she set a personal 24-hour distance record of 525.96 miles. The current solo 24-hour record is still held by Laurent Bourgnon at 540 miles, set on his successful transatlantic record in 1994.

The advantage that MacArthur has worked hard to get – making the most of the favourable and unfavourable conditions – only serves to provide MacArthur with a comfort zone: “I can definitely take less risk, but at the same time there is also a risk that you can lose time. So you have to make that compromise – how hard to you push and how much do you lose? It’s not that straightforward. We’re in a boat that’s getting tired, a skipper that’s mentally and emotionally absolutely zonked, and we’ve got all the way up the Atlantic to sail.”

MacArthur has spent over 20 days in the Southern Ocean – sailing in the remotest part of the world’s oceans – and approaching Cape Horn [ETA from 2100 GMT Tuesday 11.1.05 through to 0600 GMT 12.1.05] that will release her back into ‘civilisation’ is a strange sensation for the B&Q skipper: “I know, I can’t quite believe it, I’m finding it quite hard imagining going round the corner. I’m looking forward to it but I just can’t believe it’s a few days away, it just feels like that can’t be true. You can’t even let yourself think it is just a few days away, you can’t let your guard drop down.”

And that will continue to be the case until B&Q crosses the finish line.