Sailing: MacArthur races against time

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The Independent Online

The departure time was 14.00 and as Ellen MacArthur sat in the Maritime Museum in Falmouth yesterday she was under no illusions about the size of the latest challenge she had set herself: to be the fastest person in history to sail solo around the world.

The departure time was 14.00 and as Ellen MacArthur sat in the Maritime Museum in Falmouth yesterday she was under no illusions about the size of the latest challenge she had set herself: to be the fastest person in history to sail solo around the world.

The schedule was to sail south to a line off Ushant and be ready today to pick up what is forecast to be a new weather system which will give her following winds and a slingshot start south.

She has once again developed an affectionate relationship with her boat, the 75-foot trimaran B&Q, and she once again pays tribute to all those around her, from the designers Nigel Irena and Benoit Cabaret, to its Australian builders and the weather routers she will consult all the way round.

She admitted to feeling "pretty stressed and nervous", but felt she was better prepared both physically and mentally than for any of her previous exploits. "I will treat this as a race but, instead of there being other competitors, my rival is the clock and the clock never stops," she said. "I will be giving it all I can."

The target set by Frenchman Francis Joyon, who recently set a new solo record for the Route of Discovery from Cadiz to San Salvador, was 72 days 22 hours 54 minutes 22 seconds, and that was 20 days faster than the previous best by a singlehander.

Meanwhile, in the Vendée Globe singlehanded round-the-world race, Mike Golding was taking the long-term perspective yesterday as he completed three weeks at sea. He may need as many as three days to escape the clutches of persistent light winds in the south Atlantic and cover the remaining 500 miles to the Roaring 40s.

Golding is now 500 miles behind the leaders, Vincent Riou and Jean le Cam, despite being in fifth place, but he retains the same long-term perspective and game plan that he had before the start in Les Sables d'Olonne.

"I am heading from the sublime to the ridiculous," he said yesterday, "with eight knots of wind here - but soon I could have 50 to 60, and 60 is a hurricane."

Golding wants to be no more than 200 miles behind whoever is leading when he rounds Cape Horn, 12,000 miles away. By then anything could have befallen the quartet ahead of him, which is completed by Roland Jourdain and Sebastien Josse.

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