Sailing: MacArthur sets new target as 'detour' wrecks record attempt

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The Independent Online

Exhausted after a week-long battle with the Atlantic, disappointed at missing a new world record for the west-to east solo transatlantic crossing by 75 minutes in 170 hours and let down by an unco-operative wind, Ellen MacArthur was already planning her next adventure as she made her way up the Channel to Southampton last night.

Exhausted after a week-long battle with the Atlantic, disappointed at missing a new world record for the west-to east solo transatlantic crossing by 75 minutes in 170 hours and let down by an unco-operative wind, Ellen MacArthur was already planning her next adventure as she made her way up the Channel to Southampton last night.

She crossed the finish line just before 3.00am yesterday morning near The Lizard, off Cornwall, having tried to coax every last ounce of performance out of her 75ft trimaran, B&Q, in which she had quietly passed the start of her Blue Riband run from Ambrose Light off New York.

But she was just 75 minutes and 15 seconds outside the time of seven days, 2hr 34min 42sec for the crossing, which was set 10 years ago by the Frenchman Laurent Bourgnon in the 60ft trimaran Primagaz.

"I am a bit upset but life goes on," she said after grabbing a couple of hours' sleep while a delivery crew joined her to bring the boat home. "But that's royal compared with the last week," she said.

"I am tired but in good shape," she added. "The boat has been absolutely amazing."

So MacArthur is smitten again. She had enjoyed a love affair with her previous yacht, the 60ft Kingfisher, in which she came second in the non-stop solo round-the-world Vendée Globe. Now she could not praise her latest baby enough, a boat in which she has already covered 18,900 miles since Kingfisher was launched in Australia at the end of last year.

"The boat has been absolutely awesome," was her verdict. Out against her was first a detour to the south and then another to the north as the wind forced her away from a direct route.

"We sailed a huge amount of extra miles, about 400 miles further than we needed to," she explained, the "we" always being the partnership of herself and the boat. "That's about a day in time terms. It was really frustrating. The weather wasn't perfect but I never felt it wasn't possible. If the breeze had shifted just 10 degrees less in the final stages we would have done it."

But, on the plus side, despite having to "dig very deep and having very, very little sleep" she had been able to push the boat, designed by Nigel Irens, who was waiting to join her for a few miles, "much harder than I thought. Certainly I felt like I was the weak link this time".

Now the boat will be prepared for an attempt on the solo round-the-world record this winter. That could coincide with the next Vendée Globe, which starts in November, and presents a major challenge after the achievement earlier this year of Francis Joyon, who knocked 20 days off the old record to set a new time of 72 days 20 hours.

"I will just have to cross my fingers and hope we get good conditions, too," she said. "After all, records are there to be beaten."

Britain's Matthew Humphries took a half-point lead in the series by beating Thomas Blixt, of Sweden, by six minutes in the 415-mile Volvo Baltic Race from Warnemunde, Germany, to Sandhamm, Sweden. Two more Volvo inshore events sandwich the Round Gotland this weekend.

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