Sailing: MacArthur set for record attempt

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The Independent Online

If all the weather predictions are accurate, Ellen MacArthur will today slip away from her mooring in Falmouth and head south in her new 75ft trimaran, for Ushant, on the French coast. The following morning, having waited for a new north-westerly airstream to develop, she should start her attempt to break the record for sailing around the world single-handed. She hopes to be back before 9 February next year after a 23,000-mile marathon.

If all the weather predictions are accurate, Ellen MacArthur will today slip away from her mooring in Falmouth and head south in her new 75ft trimaran, for Ushant, on the French coast. The following morning, having waited for a new north-westerly airstream to develop, she should start her attempt to break the record for sailing around the world single-handed. She hopes to be back before 9 February next year after a 23,000-mile marathon.

MacArthur needs an injection of success on the water after her last around the world record attempt was abandoned after her 108ft catamaran, Kingfisher 2, was dismasted.

No one could ever accuse MacArthur of adopting the equivalent of boxing's bum of the month approach when it comes to picking projects, but this one was made considerably harder at the beginning of this year when the Frenchman Francis Joyon knocked 20 days off the previous record to set a time of 72 days and 22 hours.

By starting tomorrow, MacArthur can choose the most propitious conditions for the opening run south and through the Doldrums, which the leaders in the Vendée Globe race crossed with relative ease. But quite what will be happening when she reaches the southern ocean, which has been particularly gale-strewn of late, is beyond the scope of any weather planning.

She has also emphasised that most essential of other prerequisites to yachting success: the need to avoid damage or breakdown. The whole boat has been custom-designed for her 5ft 3in frame by Nigel Irens and Benoit Cabaret to make it more manageable and every attempt has been made both to minimise damage from hitting underwater gremlins and ensure safety, with multiple watertight crumple zones.

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