Sailing: MacArthur has whale of a time

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The Independent Online

Disaster is only a second away was the message from Ellen MacArthur's minders yesterday as the 28-year-old closed in on a new record for sailing solo round the world.

Disaster is only a second away was the message from Ellen MacArthur's minders yesterday as the 28-year-old closed in on a new record for sailing solo round the world. After a near-collision with a whale - it swam under the starboard hull of her 75-foot trimaran B&Q - they were anxious to highlight the ever-present vulnerability to catastrophe.

This included another collision with an unidentified underwater object with 2,500 miles to the finish off Ushant. "I hit something last night," said MacArthur. "I don't know what it was, maybe a fish or squid but it wasn't huge.

"It went on to the leeward rudder [and got stuck there] so I ended up turning the boat a full circle to get that off. The rudder seems fine."

MacArthur was making steady progress yesterday, maintaining a day and a half advantage over the progress at the same point by Francis Joyon, the man who holds the current record of 72 days 22 hours 54 minutes.

She has 10 days to complete the final miles and, speaking from his home in La Ciotat, France, top British skipper and round the world multi-hull sailor Neal McDonald said: "I think she has done a fantastic job. I think she could do it from here just using reduced sail."

MacArthur, despite huge fatigue, can afford to be a little less cautious about the likelihood of success, even in the litter-strewn North Atlantic, but Mike Golding on the other hand will have to throw caution to the winds.

Golding was still in third place in the Vendée Globe round the world race yesterday, but he had closed the gap to the leader, Vincent Riou, to just 95 miles.

But, with just 48 hours between him and the finish in Les Sables d'Olonne, and the second-placed Jean le Cam 27 miles behind Riou, a grandstand finish is in the making.

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