Sailing: MacArthur set to take record today

Click to follow
SHE IS going to do it. Some time tonight, after pushing herself way beyond what she thought were her formidable limits, Ellen MacArthur will cross the finish line off Ushant to become the fastest person in history to sail solo round the world. She will join the greats like Sir Francis Chichester and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and continue a remarkable thread of national sailing success, which includes five medals at the last two Olympic Games.

Equally remarkably, national television is planning to break into whatever programme is on to run a special on Ellen when she comes back into Falmouth, which she left on 28 November to start what has proved to be over 27,000 miles of non-stop sailing. Her exploits have captured the imagination of large sectors of the nation.

The time of that return depends on when she finishes. There are another 80 or 90 miles to travel to Falmouth from the finish line and for that she will be joined by a shore crew to sail the boat and a doctor to give her an initial check.

With until 7am Wednesday morning to complete the job, only the cruellest of luck could deny her. She had been able to throttle back the previous night before making 11 knots yesterday with less than 250 miles to go and with wind conditions becoming more favourable.

The time of 72 days 22 hours 54 minutes and 22 seconds, set by Francis Joyon last year, had seemed likely to stand for some time, so vulnerable are record attempts to adverse weather or equipment failure. But MacArthur's purpose-built 75-foot trimaran B&Q, looks set to knock between 36 and 48 hours off that remarkable time.