Sailing: MacArthur races to the Equator in record time

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The Independent Online

In the heat of the night, Ellen MacArthur set a new record of eight days, 18 hours, 20 minutes for sailing solo from Ushant to the Equator yesterday. She steered her 75ft trimaran B&Q into the southern hemisphere at 02.30 GMT to beat the previous record by some 14 hours, but this is only the first stage of her attempt to beat the man who set the previous record, Francis Joyon, who went on to knock 20 days off the old record for sailing solo round the world.

MacArthur was both excited and cautious. "I'm very pleased with the Equator time," she said. "We know it is still very early days [MacArthur has over 20,000 miles to run], and cruising south with a good breeze it's also a moment where you know it's just one milestone and a lot could change between now and later."

Over the next few days MacArthur has to find the fastest way through the weather systems of the south Atlantic. She hopes to negotiate a narrow corridor between the St Helena high pressure zone and some low pressure developing along the coast of Brazil. "Timing is going to be absolutely crucial," she said.

Elsewhere, it was Vincent Riou's turn to take the slimmest of leads over Jean le Cam in the Vendée Globe Round the World race yesterday as the remaining three in the leading group, Roland Jourdain, Sébastien Josse and Mike Golding all clawed back some of the miles they had lost to the French pair.

In Cape Town, Conrad Humphreys has replaced the damaged rudder from Hellomoto as Alex Thomson gave in to the inevitable and announced his retirement. Also having to nurse his boat to South Africa was Norbert Sedlacek, his keel in danger of falling off and causing a capsize. Seventh-placed Jean-Pierre Dick has decided to press on without an engine to charge the batteries and run the autopilots.

Yesterday Tracy Edwards announced that Brian Thompson would skipper the 108ft catamaran Qatar 2006 in the round the world race she is organising from Doha next February. Today she expects the latest in a series of court cases concerning her financial management to be adjourned in the London High Court.