Sailing: Fatigue cuts MacArthur's advantage

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The Independent Online

Sleep deprivation was the main concern for Ellen MacArthur yesterday as the time she has in hand in her attempt to set a new record for sailing solo round the world slipped under four days.

MacArthur consulted her Canada-based doctor Kevin McMeel as she approached 50 days of non-stop physical effort. Her progress was also impeded by an injury suffered on Saturday, when she was hit on the back of the head by part of a sail.

"The last few days have not been just testing, but have taken me once again a long way inside myself to find the strength to keep sailing safely," MacArthur said in an email yesterday. "Since Cape Horn, which seems to me like weeks ago now, I have had nothing but changeable conditions. Yesterday I was more tired than I have been in the whole trip - and conditions worsening through the day. My body ached with the strain of the trip so far, my joints throbbed - together with the lump on my head, I just felt like I was empty.

"I have tried so hard to rest - but when things are changing with the weather and the boat's safety is in danger it's very very hard to switch off." However, she added a more positive note, saying: "It's the morning here, and I'm feeling the most human I've felt for days. I'm not back at 100 per cent, but I'm back."

Also frustrated was Mike Golding, as the effects of a second mainsail-halyard break worsened his position in the Vendée Globe race. He was over 200 miles behind the leader Vincent Riou and over 140 behind Jean le Cam in second.

"It's not been the easiest 48 hours, but I'm up and moving now," he said. "I caught up on quite a bit of sleep last night. It's been very changeable, though, so I've been sleeping around the alarms. Then again it's not too hard to sleep, because I'm pretty tired."