If Ellen MacArthur escapes unscathed through the gale force winds tonight, the record is as good as hers

Despite the light winds she has encountered over the last few days Ellen MacArthur is still two days, five hours ahead of the current record held by Francis Joyon.

MacArthur, who’s attempting to break the singlehanded world speed record, is now on the final leg to the Ushant finish line and to break the record she needs to cross the line before 0700 on Wednesday morning.

But although MacArthur only has a ‘few’ miles to go the weather over the next couple of days is forecast to become extremely windy and is starting to cause MacArthur yet more concern.

Chatting from the boat this morning she commented: “It’s funny yesterday the finish seemed quite close, now it feels a very long way away…it’s going to be tough, it’s so cold that I had stomach ache, head ache, starting coughing…it saps everything you’ve got, you can’t recover. Really weird. We are in bands of cumulus, little black things, with big gusts…wind has gone from 15 to 28 knots and back to 19 knots…right now 31 knots again! These are the conditions to break the boat, probably more than any time in whole voyage…”

At 0600 this morning Commanders’ Weather Corp confirmed MacArthur’s worries with this forecast: “Winds will gradually build Saturday and Saturday night for Ellen as strong northerly wind gradient develops between High pressure out at 50n/25w and broad low pressure trough developing from the English Channel to Southern Portugal. Expect wind speeds to get into the 30-40 kt range with seas building to 15-20 feet overnight Saturday night.”

With this in mind MacArthur will continue to sail as tight to the breeze as she can to avoid running into north-west Spain. She should be able to do this but the boat will take a bashing.

On the final approaches on Sunday the northerly wind will be trending toward north-east in the afternoon and evening and finally shift into the east by daybreak Monday. This wind shift into the east, then south-east on Monday, will allow Ellen a relatively easy ride to the finish at Ushant.