Sailing: Battered Britons face Atlantic test of mettle

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The Independent Online

Bruises and fatigue were taking their toll on Britain's two top solo sailors yesterday as they struggled against adversity in the Atlantic.

Bruises and fatigue were taking their toll on Britain's two top solo sailors yesterday as they struggled against adversity in the Atlantic.

Ellen MacArthur, on day 48, was being given another pasting by the jerky motion of her 75-foot trimaran B&Q, and any respite was likely to be accompanied by the frustration of light winds slowing her progress. But she still had well over four days in hand on the record of 72 days, 22 hours and 54 minutes set last February by Francis Joyon for sailing alone round the world.

After 10 weeks of pushing his Open 60 Ecover, Mike Golding was having to dig deep for the umpteenth time as the psychological blow of slipping back 100 miles to third compounded the debilitating tiredness caused by having to climb the 85ft mast for the second time to cure the cause of the slide, the breakage of the super-strong Vectran halyard which holds up the mainsail.

Nursing both himself and every component of his boat, Golding last night felt he could retake second place, but he was 174 miles astern of the leader, Vincent Riou, and had 45 miles to recover on Jean le Cam in second.

MacArthur has now completed over 15,000 miles but said of the conditions: "It feels like [they are] trying to break the boat. Everything is creaking and groaning and smashing and grinding. It's just terrible." For good measure, she took a blow to her forehead, hit by the reinforced corner of a headsail as it tried to free itself.

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