Sailing: MacArthur 'smoking along' in record attempt

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After a torturous period of maddeningly light winds, Ellen MacArthur and her crew on Kingfisher 2 were speeding for the equator in their attempt to claim the Jules Verne Trophy for the fastest global circumnavigation.

The 26-year-old British sailor and her crew of 13 were held up by the lack of wind on Monday but have been setting a rapid pace since and are now back on track to chase Bruno Peyron's record of 64 days.

"We've been smoking along for 24 hours now," MacArthur said yesterday as she approached the Doldrums region close to the equator. At a rate of 500 miles per day, Kingfisher 2 was yesterday afternoon less than two hours adrift of Peyron's time on Orange, 344 nautical miles from the equator.

The record set by the other challenger for the Trophy, Olivier de Kersauson on Geronimo, for the passage from Ushant, where Jules Verne attempts begin, to the equator, had almost certainly drifted from MacArthur's grasp, thanks to the earlier light winds that hindered her progress. She must now plot a quick path into the southern hemisphere before crossing the South Atlantic high weather system.

"We expect to have to sail more than a 1,000 extra miles," she said, conceding that her course would probably take her out towards Brazil before heading down to the Cape of Good Hope. "We'll be seeing the eyes of the Brazilians, I'm afraid.

"Last night I helmed for an hour – an electrifying feeling. Such an enormous machine at your hands, just responding to each little movement of the helm. We seem very small compared to her. That's why we have to be so careful – she is enormous and far more powerful than us. In this attempt it's far more about taming the beast than pushing as hard as you can."