Ellen MacArthur is now 3 days 8 hours ahead of Francis Joyon's world speed record time. Offshore Challenges chatted to MacArthur last night following another erratic day at sea

Ellen MacArthur is now 3 days 8 hours ahead of Francis Joyon’s world speed record time. Offshore Challenges chatted to MacArthur last night following another erratic day at sea.

How was last night?

Conditions were presumed to be stable and yesterday afternoon I put the first reef in again, even though I wasn’t sure what was going to happen to the weather it seemed the right thing to do at the time. So I sat with a decreasing breeze with the reef in and I was thinking all the time, shall I pull it out, maybe not, it was the middle of the night and I just wanted to be sure. And then I tried to get some sleep and the breeze died to average 16 knots, then it started raining and the breeze died to 7 knots and the forescast was for it to be in the high teens maybe twenties, then it was punching up to 21, 22 knots. Then all of a sudden a second set of cloud came over and the breeze came up to 25, gusting 26 knots, and it averaged that for about six hours. It’s just slowly died down and it’s gusting 22-23, so it was pretty unexpected and pretty brutal in the night, to be honest.

What sail configuration do you have now?

I’ve got two reefs in [the main], I had to put two reefs in with that amount of breeze, and the Solent. I’ve only had two hours max of sleep since yesterday morning so I’m pretty tired.

What are the general conditions onboard like?

The motion is **** in the boat. Because we’re now going to start heading into the Trade Winds, heading east of north, so the swell form the Trade Winds are right on our nose. We don’t have an option we’ve just got to go with it so, here we go.

Can you talk more about this high pressure system?

I don’t know what’s going to happen with the high… I’m sitting here and every single report that’s coming in it’s moving – the four different models this morning, all say different things. The only thing I hope really doesn’t happen is that we end up finishing with 35 knots upwind and, to be honest, I think that’s the most likely scenario. I’m not trying to be negative, it’s going to be really, really bad at the end if that’s what happened. It will be ‘boat-breaking’ scenario.

How are you generally?

My hands are so hard and so tight and so rotten…they look quite disgusting! There is white rot underneath all my fingernails, I can chew bits of the skin off without feeling a thing, it’s that hard and that knackered. Not very beautiful. We’re getting a bit closer everyday, bit by bit, as long as the wind keeps blowing we’ll make it home one way or the other, as long as we don’t do anything stupid.

Are you happy with the condition of the boat?

I’m sailing with a second reef in at the moment but I’ve got the headboard car right at the top of the box and I think it’s probably okay. I can’t really hear any weird noises, I was pulling the reef in and I thought ‘what’s the worst scenario’, and I thought if we do lose the crayons again and the track is ripped off or damaged again, the best place that could happen is at the top of the second reef not the bottom of the second reef. So that’s why I’ve pushed the car to the top – I’ve put it above all the damage – to be honest, it’s very close to the reinforcement. If it screws itself again and if it rips off, at least we can get back to two reefs which is not an insignificant amount of sail.