A collision in the night and a near collision with a whale yesterday causes concern for MacArthur aboard B&Q

A collision in the night and a near collision with a whale yesterday, is a sharp reminder of how close to disaster B&Q skipper, Ellen MacArthur, can be at any point on the remaining 2,600 miles left on the race course. Chatting about the collision MacArthur said: “I hit something last night – I don’t know what it was, maybe a fish or squid, I don’t know but it wasn’t huge. It went on the leeward rudder [and got stuck there] so I ended up doing a 360 [turning the boat full circle] to get that off. I gybed the boat so the rudder just lifted out of the water and it came off and drifted away. The rudder seems fine, it wasn’t massive maybe the size of a bin bag but I really felt the thud.”

With the equivalent of a transatlantic race to go in terms of distance, a tired boat, an exhausted skipper and a damaged mainsail track, Ellen’s record attempt still has a long, long way to go.

B&Q is staying just ahead of the pace of Francis Joyon’s IDEC in the last 24 hours. She’s gained back a couple more hours on the clock to give her a lead of 1 day and 12 hours this morning [0710gmt], as she continues her upwind slog northwards.

Wind speeds continued to fluctuate through the night both in speed and direction. MacArthur added: “Lot of changeable breeze as always pumping up from 14-18 knots – boat’s pretty powered up but when its 14 knots its on the edge of genoa and on the edge of 18 knots its solent and 1st reef so its pretty hard to get it right. I’m happier with the full main anyway, just because of the car situation so if I can hold on to full main I will. It’s quite stressful, not relaxing, as you never seem to have exactly the right sails up – we’re over-powered rather than under-powered, right now, and I am not sure which is worse. 20 degree swings all the time and it’s not like nice gradual waves up and down its aggressive, few seconds, here we go again, swings happen unbelievably quickly.”

The pace of the 75ft multihull, B&Q, and that of her virtual competitor, Francis Joyon’s 90ft multihull IDEC, are fairly evenly matched with MacArthur just claiming the upper hand for now. B&Q managed a 24 hour run of Distance Made Good to the finish of 317 miles compared to 257 miles of Joyon. But today IDEC was fast, clocking up a 300 mile 24hr of Distance Made Good, then 299 miles tomorrow followed by 278 miles before the tally starts to fall before his final and fast 4-day run into the finish.

The high pressure debate continues to see which way the high pressure area off to the west of Ireland decides to move. MacArthur concluded: “The high pressure doesn’t appear to be moving quite how it was yesterday, so we’ll probably end up going upwind into it, rather than downwind through it – going on the south-east side but we’ll have to see. But conditions are pretty much for me, going to stay like this for another couple of days – it’s still Trades and we’re going to start reaching soon.”

For now, the upwind slog continues until the winds back to the south-east tomorrow and into Tuesday then fast conditions mid-week as the effects of a low pressure to the west deliver some strong breeze.