Ellen MacArthur is poised to set a new solo time from Ushant to the Cape of Good Hope during the next few hours

Ten days after setting a new fastest solo time to the Equator, Ellen MacArthur is poised to set a new solo time from Ushant to the Cape of Good Hope.

At 1610 GMT today, B&Q only had another 40 miles to go before crossing the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope longitude at 18 29 degrees east – it is anticipated to take Ellen another 3 hours of sailing to cross the line that marks the second major landmark of the round the world course.

Chatting from the boat MacArthur said: “We’ve got a good heading and it’s taking us as far south, as fast as we can go on the direct route…if all goes well, we should be crossing the line due south to the Cape of Good Hope soon, which would mean taking off around 10 hours off Francis’ time. We’ll see how it goes. We’re not there yet but it would certainly be a positive move for our debut into the Southern Ocean.” Joyon’s time stands at 19 days, 20 hours and 31 minutes and to beat this time, B&Q needed to cross the longitude of 18 29 degrees east by 0441 GMT tomorrow.

Passing south of 40 degrees, B&Q ‘officially’ entered the Southern Ocean today after a night of hard sailing after gybing onto starboard early yesterday evening: MacArthur continued: “We had really changeable breeze and everything was up and down but we seem to have come out of it okay. We’ve got reasonable boat speed and we’ve got good breeze. I’m sailing along with blue skies which makes a huge difference after what we were sailing in yesterday in the front of the depression. There’s quite a few petrels and albatrosses around. And we’ve dropped below 40 south, so we’re now officially in the Roaring Forties!”

Ellen maintains a 16 hour 34 minute lead over Joyon’s time [at 1610 GMT] as B&Q powers south-east at 18.63 knots of boat speed on the direct course in 23 knots of breeze from the WNW heading straight for the Indian Ocean – the first ocean sector of the Southern Ocean – that officially begins at the meridian of 20 degrees east.

B&Q is approximately 380 miles south of the geographical Cape of Good Hope as Ellen begins the transition from the South Atlantic into the Indian Ocean section of the Roaring Forties:

“The Indian Ocean is renowned for it’s bad storms and the Cape of Good Hope marks the boundary between the South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. In a few hours time we will be leaving the South Atlantic and the next time we will be in there, will be when we round Cape Horn heading north again. The Indian Ocean is renowned for its depressions which fly down off Africa. They tend to be very, very energetic depressions with a lot of wind in them and they can sometimes build very, very quickly and that can lead to a very dangerous situation. You have to be extra vigilant to see what’s coming and, obviously, try not to get stuck in something which is particularly venomous.”

As a second solo speed benchmark appears to be within MacArthur’s grasp, the first being her solo time to the Equator of 8 days, 18 hours and 20 minutes, Ellen continues the number crunching: “If you isolate the Southern Ocean segment (Cape of Good Hope to Cape Horn), then Joyon sailed approximately 12,044 miles at an average speed of 17.3 knots, that’s an average of 415 miles per day. Effectively, that is my target now, I have to do better than that if I can. I think it’s do-able if I can keep me and B&Q together.”

The weather situation shows that the frontal boundary has shifted north of MacArthur with SW breeze mostly in the 18-25 kt range behind the front. The character of the breeze though may continue to be squally in nature with lulls as low as 15 kts and peaks up near 25 kts. Direction will trend to more W direction Friday night especially as Ellen gets further south. She has reported some unfavorable current of 2-3 kts and this will make for rough seas and slower boat speeds than expected as she heads SE on starboard.

As Ellen approaches 43-44s later Saturday she likely will need to gybe to port and get some northing in to stay safely north of the potential ice threat which increases south of 45s. Winds will diminish some on Saturday but will be on the increase Sunday as next low pressure trough approaches from the west. This trough will clock winds into the NW with speeds perhaps building to 25-35 kts by Sunday night. Ellen will be heading rapidly east at that point somewhere between 42-44s.