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ELLEN MACARTHUR’S ROUND THE WORLD SOLO RECORD ATTEMPT

She did it. Below the reader can share the last storm and calm with Ellen.

DAY 70: FINAL STORM BETWEEN MACARTHUR AND FINISH...

KEY DATA DAY 69 0710 GMT:

Distance ahead: 698 miles
Time ahead: 2 days 6 hours [representing 56.23% of time remaining] calculated using the time it took for Joyon to get to the same Distance to Finish as Ellen's current position

OMEGA: Official timekeeper for Ellen MacArthur

Lat/Long: 43 33 N / 020 26 W (400 miles NNE Azores / 495 miles W Cape Finisterre)
Average Boat speed: 13.78 knots (heading NE by E)
True Wind speed: 23.6 knots (direction N)
Sea temperature: 13.7 degrees C
Distance sailed so far: 26,545 miles at an average speed of 16.0 knots
(data communicated by Thrane MiniC via BT Business Broadband)

ETA: [Estimated Time of Arrival is based on the latest weather information available to the team today and ignoring technical breakdown slowing Ellen down. As the weather evolves the ETA will be updated. This refers to crossing the finish line, arrival in Falmouth would be 7 to 14 hours later]
Earliest: Monday 1200-2000GMT
Average: Monday 2000GMT to Tuesday 1200 GMT
Latest: 1200GMT Tuesday to Wednesday 1200 GMT

Update based on data recorded 0710 GMT...check here for the latest data updated hourly.

IN BRIEF:

* NORTHERLY GALE ALREADY MAKING ITSELF FELT as <<B&Q>> skipper, Ellen MacArthur pushes the 75ft multihull to the north-east, heading for north of Cape Finisterre, 495 miles away to the east - the final Cape marking the entry into the Bay of Biscay. With the strong wind coming from the north, MacArthur is unable to sail a direct course to the finish off Ushant, this will put her on a dangerous point of sail - cold unstable gusty wind on the nose, and a huge sea from the side - in Ellen's own words this morning, 'capsize conditions'.

* LESS THAN 700 MILES TO SAIL BUT FINISH SEEMS A LONG WAY AWAY for Ellen as she sails into the storm: "It's funny yesterday the finish seemed quite close, now it feels a very long way away..." MacArthur willl first have to deal with the storm before looking for a shift in the breeze to the east then south-east that will free her to tack on to starboard and head for the finish line off Ushant.

* LATEST ROUTING SHOWS <<B&Q>> CROSSING THE LINE OVERNIGHT ON MONDAY but one thing is sure, this 'final' storm is a very high risk time for Ellen and the trimaran, in their tired states after 26,600 miles of ocean racing...different to the Southern Ocean storms, this one Ellen has no choice but to punch in to. The effective apparent wind is likely to touch 60 knots (69mph, 111km/h) in the gusts (45 knots of wind, 15 knots of boat speed, the effective or 'apparent' wind as it is known, being the sum of the two like running on land in to the wind).

EARLY MORNING CALL FROM ELLEN TO SHORE TEAM:

"It's pretty bad already, it's going to be horrendous... The models where I am now say I should have 18 knots of breeze and I've got a 28 knot average already, gusting 33 and it's not supposed to get bad for another 12 hours. Going to be lucky to come through this without breaking something or capsizing, to be frank, because its already really rough and its going to get really, really rough. The waves are going to be absolutely huge and we're going to be going straight across them which is the worst thing you could possibly do. I'm really worried. Just got to keep things together for the next 24 hours." The storm is certainly not the final hurdle for MacArthur, busy shipping lanes crossing the Bay of Biscay and ocean debris will still be concerns, but it will be a case of hanging in there without breaking anything.

"At the begining of the night, I got about an hour and a half [of sleep] because the breeze was due to increase but it died so I thought I should get some sleep then. Then I had hours and hours in the night when I couldn't sleep. I was so cold, it's freezing out here, absolutely freezing. I just couldn't get warm and there were ships around as well. I tell you something I am going to be looking forward to sunrise tomorrow morning.

To be honest, an 80 degree True Wind Angle would be nice [currently sailing closer than this at 60 TWA, but wind due to move left] but, unfortunately, its going to be in the same heading that it is right now so the wind is going to come round a bit more from the north-west but sadly the sea won't for a while. I've got staysail and 2 reefs at the moment and I normally go for the 3rd reef when we've got consistently over 30 knots. To be honest, we're not far off 3rd reef which I didn't think we would be putting in until this afternoon.

It's been more stable in the last hour, there were a couple of spikes but it is increasing. I really don't want to bust anything and the conditions we had last night that stopped me sleeping were not having enough sail up and falling off every wave. When the wind went down to 15 knots it was really terrible - everything just shakes, you're not even loaded and the boat just falls and that's awful - you just try to find the compromise between the two. I can't relax at all because it's not a relaxing situation and it's not like 'don't worry, you will be in in three days', because right now we are facing the worst conditions from a boat-break point of view that we've had in the entire trip without a doubt.

At least with the south-easterly the swell should die down a bit - it doesn't look like the strongest of the wind really creates a massive swell in Biscay because by the time you get the shift, it's actually quite light in Biscay the whole time. There's a low in the middle of it, so the breeze is all over the place not generating any real sea state, when the wind goes into the south-east we will get some sea but not too much.

It's funny yesterday the finish seemed quite close, now it feels a very long way away..."

WEATHER ANALYSIS FROM COMMANDERS' WEATHER 0600 GMT:

In the rules of record attempts, skippers are allowed to use the advice of shore-based weather experts to assist them with their choices. Ellen is working with two teams, principally Commanders Weather in the USA, backed up by Meeno Schrader in Germany.

One more period of gales and very rough seas Saturday night into Sunday then Ellen will be into calmer conditions and on her way to the finish.

Winds will gradually build Saturday and Saturday night for Ellen as strong
northerly wind gradient develops between High pressure out at 50n/25w and broad low pressure trough developing from the English Channel to Southern Portugal.

Expect wind speeds to get into the 30-40 kt [see Latest News for a more recent update as well from Meeno Schrader] range with seas building to 15-20 feet overnight Saturday night. Ellen will continue to sail tight to the breeze as she can to avoid running into NW Spain. She should be able to do this but the boat will take a bashing.

Sunday conditions will be relaxing as she approaches 10w. The northerly wind will be trending toward NE Sunday afternoon and evening and finally shift into the E by daybreak Monday. This wind shift into the E, then SE Monday, will allow Ellen to head for the finish at Ushant.

71ST DAY: SURVIVING THE STORM AND HUNTING THE WINDSHIFT IN THE EAST FOR THE FINAL TACK TO THE FINISH

KEY DATA 70TH DAY 0710 GMT:
Distance ahead: 828 miles
Time ahead: 1 day 23 hours [representing 65.28% of time remaining] calculated using the time it took for Joyon to get to the same Distance to Finish as Ellen's current position.

Lat/Long: 45 23 N / 013 03 W (approx 250 miles WNW Cape Finisterre)
Average Boat speed: 11.98 knots (heading E by N)
True Wind speed: 27.3 knots (direction N)
Sea temperature: 12.7 degrees C
Distance sailed so far: 26,883 miles at an average speed of 16.0 knots
(data communicated by Thrane MiniC via BT Business Broadband)
Distance to finish: 371 miles

ETA: [Estimated Time of Arrival is based on the latest weather information available to the team today and ignoring technical breakdown slowing Ellen down. As the weather evolves the ETA will be updated. This refers to crossing the finish line, arrival in Falmouth would be 7 to 14 hours later]

Earliest: Monday 1200-1800GMT
Average: Monday 1800GMT to Tuesday 0200 GMT
Latest: During Tuesday

Update based on data recorded 0710 GMT...check here for the latest data updated hourly

IN BRIEF:

* LESS THAN 400 MILES TO GO FOR B&Q SKIPPER, ELLEN MACARTHUR as she heads eastwards towards the Bay of Biscay.

* GALE FORCE CONDITIONS SLOWLY ABATING as B&Q, approx 250 miles WNW of Cape Finisterre.

* SHIPS, EXPLODING HARD DRIVES AND VENDEE GLOBE BOATS add more action to the unfolding drama over the last 12 hours.

To listen to Ellen's audio, courtesy of Geolink/Iridium, click here

IN DETAIL:

There is less than 400 miles to go for B&Q skipper, Ellen MacArthur as she heads eastwards towards the Bay of Biscay, looking for potentially the one final wind shift that will see her home to the finish. Her lead has been falling quickly from 2 days, 6 hours yesterday morning to 1 day, 23 hours as her course takes her away from the direct route to the finish combined with the fact that Francis Joyon, on his 90ft multihull IDEC, was super fast towards the finish, clocking up average 400 mile days over the last four days direct to the finish. But for MacArthur, barring any major incidents or technical failure, her goal of setting a new solo, non-stop round the world speed record looks to be within her grasp with 371 miles left to go on the clock which stops ticking at 0704GMT on Wednesday, 9th February. Latest estimated time of crossing the line is still looking possible for Monday.

ETA: [Estimated Time of Arrival is based on the latest weather information available to the team today and ignoring technical breakdown slowing Ellen down. As the weather evolves the ETA will be updated. This refers to crossing the finish line, arrival in Falmouth would be 7 to 14 hours later]

Gale force conditions are slowly abating as B&Q, approximately 250 miles WNW of Cape Finisterre, pushes eastwards towards the Bay of Biscay - and hopefully more favourable south easterly winds. Overnight wind speeds were averaging 32, 34, 35 knots and gusting up in the high 40's blasting MacArthur with a full Force 8 gale as she fully reefed the mainsail [reducing it to its smallest size] and switched to the storm jib [the smallest headsail she has onboard, just 15m2]: "Strongest breeze has been lower than I thought, a short period of gusts up to 40, but nothing that we couldn't have coped with the staysail, so a bit annoying. It will be another six hours before the wind starts dropping so sensible thing is to stay like this until it gets light. My biomonitor tells me I've slept for 54 minutes, so that is good I guess, am just making my dinner now [
0100!]." One more final battering as a very tired multihull and an even more exhausted skipper ride out the storm, hoping they can hang together and not break anything that could wreak the record attempt in these final stages. Still blowing an average of 27 knots this morning but the winds should decrease to 20-25 knot range today and 15-20 knots this evening. The wind is expected to turn from the north more to the right, forcing a bad heading almost at right angles to the finish, but then into the east and south-east during the night. Commanders' Weather forecast the all important wind shift for about 0300GMT tomorrow near 45 degrees north and 7 30 degrees west. At the point, MacArthur should be able tack on to starboard, possibly for the last time, and head north again in a good 14-18 knot breeze to the finish line off Ushant.

Ships, exploding hard drives and Vendée Globe boats add more action to the unfolding drama over the last 12 hours: "A few ships around, alarms going off all around me. I put the radar on and could see really clearly. On deck you can't look forward, the spray stings your eyes too much. Although I did clean the windows the other day, and I can see more from inside than on deck to the water hurling over the deck." Shipping will become a more hazardous threat as Ellen gets into the Bay of Biscay and moves north in the busy shipping channels. B&Q is also just a handful of miles away from two of the Vendée Globe (solo race around world) boats, TEMENOS (Dom Wavre, 4th) and VMI (Seb Josse, 5th). These two skippers have been fighting it out neck and neck since Cape Horn, on their way to the finish in Les Sables [www.vendeeglobe.fr for more on this race - the event that Ellen competed in onboard Kingfisher in 2000/1]. Early this morning, one of the Sony VAIO laptops that power the critical information systems onboard B&Q - including routing and navigation software - suffered a meltdown. The VAIO's have survived 70 days without a glitch, despite continual pounding onboard B&Q but last night's storm was the last straw for one of the two hard disks. At 0750 Charles Darbyshire, Technology Manager, received a call to report the failure and just seven minutes later, MacArthur had replaced the hard disk with a pre-start mirrored backup unit, re-configured the software, and was up and running again - preparation counts!

FROM ELLEN THIS MORNING:

"The breeze is oscilating the whole time - one minute its up at 35 knots, the next its decreasing to 16, then you get a gust of 31 then it drops down to 20 - it's really up and down. So hard to keep the boat going - my boat speed at the moment is 12.7 knot average which is terrible. We had a few really big waves in the night - I was virtually thrown out of the bunk by one that broke right over the boat filled the cockpit, it was good I had the door shut. The cuddy was full, everything was awash, all the ropes were swimming around in the cockpit - there must have been a ton of water in the cockpit, I was a bit worried about the structure.

Still had a guest of 35 knots 20 minutes ago, but average speed now is 23 knots so its really hard to know what to do. If the breeze is averaging 30 knots, I put the third reef in and if its averaging 28-29 knots, I have 2 reefs in but when you are getting gusts of 36 knots that is ****loads. I'm on three and a staysail - I certainly wouldn't put the staysail up because its top is 24 knots.

I spent a few hours in my bunk - it was hard, very rough and cold. But, to be honest, it wasn't as cold as the night before. The night before I really suffered on the cold front.

I really worked hard last night - I was saying its rough now, its now the time to be gaining and I just thought 'keep it together and try and rest'. But hard to rest when the breeze is dying, so hard."

72ND DAY: SO NEAR AND YET SO FAR, FINISH LINE
STILL ANOTHER 200 MILES...

KEY DATA DAY 71 0710 GMT:
Distance ahead: 585 miles
Time ahead: 1 day 8 hours [representing 66.67% of time remaining] calculated using the time it took for Joyon to get to the same Distance to Finish as Ellen's current position.

OMEGA: Official timekeeper for Ellen MacArthur

Lat/Long: 45 10 N / 007 22 W
Average Boat speed: 8.95 knots (heading NNE)
True Wind speed: 15.5 knots (direction E by N)
Distance sailed so far: 27,133 miles at an average speed of 13.9 knots
(data communicated by Thrane MiniC via BT Business Broadband)

Update based on data recorded 0710 GMT...check here for the latest data updated hourly

IN BRIEF:

* SLOW AND SLEEPLESS NIGHT FOR B&Q SKIPPER Ellen MacArthur as she tried to get through the weather transition into the new breeze.

* HOPES OF MAKING FINISH LINE OFF USHANT THIS AFTERNOON have all but disappeared although current routing models suggest crossing the line later tonight, arriving Falmouth tomorrow.

* SLEEP? A BIT SHORT OF IT: Ellen attacked the difficult sailing conditions of last night with a viewpoint that it was her last night at sea, and got just 15 minutes in total of sleep.

* * JOYON'S 72 DAY, 22 HOUR, 54 MINUTE WORLD RECORD rocked the sailing world when he crossed the finish line at 0654 GMT on 3rd February 2004

IN DETAIL:

Slow and sleepless night for B&Q skipper Ellen MacArthur as she tried to get through the weather transition into the new and more favourable breeze. B&Q only made 100 miles distance towards the finish in the last 24 hours and at times during the night was actually sailing away from the finish - not surprisingly her lead on the record has dropped to 1 day and 8 hours. In comparison, Joyon on his 90ft multihull IDEC, was storming to the finish line clocking up 400+ miles in the same 24-hour period. Things can change quickly when MacArthur's 'virtual' competitor is having the opposite conditions to her - fast and in the right direction! B&Q was pushing eastwards most of yesterday as the northerly gale at the weekend slowly abated. The breeze was forecast to shift into the east and then south-east in the hourly hours of this morning. But the transition proved to be elusive with massive wind shifts of up to a 100 degrees forcing Ellen to tack the boat through the wind 11 times - one tack taking her towards the finish, the next away. It wasn't until just before sunrise that Ellen made what she hoped was the final tack to the north, although the permanence of the new wind direction is yet to be confirmed.

Hopes of making finish line off Ushant this afternoon have all but disappeared although current routing models suggest crossing the line later tonight is still possible - current ETA between 2300GMT and 0600GMT. Still 217 miles to go and with breeze in the 8-15 knot range this morning, Ellen will be anxious for south-easterly wind to become more stable and stronger, so she can power on towards the finish line that is so tantalising close but yet still so far away. The new best 'guess' for actually arriving in Falmouth will be Tuesday morning at present, all being well onboard.

Sleep? A bit short of it really! Ellen attacked the difficult sailing conditions of last night with a viewpoint that it was her last night at sea, and got just 15 minutes in total of sleep. The bad news for her this morning was that it doesn't look like it will be the last night. Getting some kind of naps will be critical for her today with extra vigilance also being required as she tracks across the Bay of Biscay quite close the route the cargo ships take from Finisterre to Ushant. On a call this morning Ellen admitted that she was really looking forward to seeing her family and friends, but that seeing land again would be a strange concept after so long at sea. Full audio will be available on the website today in the AUDIO/VIDEO section.

Joyon's 72 day, 22 hour, 54 minute world record rocked the sailing world when he crossed the finish line at 0654 GMT on 3rd February 2004, taking 21 days off the previous solo record set by 2001 Vendée Globe winner, Michael Desjoyeaux on his 60ft monohull PRB. As Ellen said before leaving: "It is the kind of record that deserves to stand for a decade or more..." when she only gave herself a 25 per cent chance of even getting close to his time. Francis Joyon set on 22 November 2003 on board his 90-foot trimaran to cross the start line off Brest. He subsequently set new solo times to every major landmark along the way - Equator, three Southern Ocean capes and back up to the Equator. IDEC covered 26,938.42 nautical miles at an average speed of 15.38 knots. Joyon chose to do his own weather routing for the trip and quietly and simply got on with the job. If one person can truly empathise with what MacArthur has been through so far it is Joyon - their respect and admiration for each other is mutual.

FROM ELLEN:

The last 24 hours have been absolutely horrendous. We've had everything from full on gusts of 40 knots in the tail end of a storm, we've had huge sea states at the end of yesterday after the storm in the north, we sailed out of that sea state during the night still with some very strong gusts and we had to tack in a small low pressure system, off the north of Spain and that's proved very, very complicated. What we thought would be one tack on a shift off to the north ended up being seven tacks during the night. I had 100 degree wind shifts which lasted for 45 minutes which meant I had to tack and then came back again. It's been very, very variable very, very tough. And unbelieveably cold out here.

There is definitely still a chance to break the record as long as I don't hit anything or break anything between where I am now and the finish line. If all goes well it looks like I should be finishing during the night, tonight. But obviously looking at what we had last night we got held up by about 6 hours, and the winds should not be that strong on the way up the Bay of Biscay so it all depends on what wind we have and what direction it chooses to blow.

I'm absolutely exhausted, I had about 15 minutes sleep I think through the night, there has been ships everywhere, rain squalls. We had the wind direction changing. At one point the boat tacked itself because the wind shift was so great so! It's been a full on night and I am very, very tired. I was hoping to be in before sunset tonight but that looks absolutely impossible now, so I'm just going to have to hang in here and just try and hold on until the finish.

Getting to land is a strange thing to say because it's been a long time since we've even seen land. We didn't see Cape Horn, all I've seen have seen are the Islands in the South Atlantic. There's not been a lot of land sighted from B&Q so the thought of coming back to land is pretty novel in itself. I'm very much looking forward to getting in, to seeing all the team, my friends and family and all the supporters. I can't wait to get in. It's been a very, very long trip and an exceptionally hard one. I'll be glad to be crossing that finish line and finally feeling a little bit of relief.

ELLEN RTW SOLO RECORD: SHE'S DONE IT...

B&Q skipper, Ellen MacArthur, crossed the finish line off Ushant at 22:29:17 GMT tonight (Monday, 7.2.05) to set a new solo, non-stop round the world record of 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes and 33 seconds. MacArthur has taken 1 day, 8 hours, 35 minutes, 49 seconds off the previous fastest 72 day, 22 hours, 54 minute solo time of Francis Joyon (Joyon finished his record attempt on 3.2.04).

From Ellen minutes after crossing the line: "I cannot believe it, I absolutely cannot believe it. It hasn't sunk in yet. I don't think until I see faces again that it's really going to sink in. It's been an absolutely unbelievable journey, both physically and mentally. I'm absolutely overjoyed."

Conditions at the finish line were relatively calm with a moderate 12-16 knot south-easterly breeze propelling B&Q at speeds from 18 to 20 knots. The WSSRC observer, Claude Breton, based at the lighthouse in Ushant counted down the finish time as a number of helicopters hovered above the 75ft mulithull, B&Q, filming the final moments of MacArthur's record attempt. The Royal Navy's HMS Severn stood off the line prepared to escort her across the Channel and into Falmouth. MacArthur's shore team are onboard ready to board the trimaran as soon as possible to help MacArthur sail the 100 miles to Falmouth.

B&Q sailed 27,354 miles through the water at an average speed of 15.9 knots.

A huge welcome reception is being planned in Falmouth for MacArthur's return. The trimaran will dock at Port Pendennis Marina and the public and over 300 media gathered here in Falmouth will be able witness her return from the National Maritime Museum Cornwall.

The new solo world speed record will need to be ratified by the WSSRC [World Speed Sailing Records Council].

ELLEN MACARTHUR SOLO ROUND THE WORLD - NEW SOLO TIMES:

Ushant-Equator 8d 18h 20m 7/12/04 0230GMT (taking 14h 3m off Joyon's time)
Ushant-Cape of Good Hope 19d 9h 46m 17/12/04 1756GMT (taking 10h 45m off Joyon's time)
Ushant-Cape Leeuwin 29d 14h 5m 27/12/04 2215GMT (taking 17h 24m off Joyon's time)
Ushant-Cape Horn 44d 23h 36m 12/1/04 0746GMT (taking 4 days 2h 45m off Joyon's time)
Ushant-Equator 60d 13h 35m 27/1/05 2145GMT (taking 1d 10h 50m off Joyon's time)
Equator-Equator record of 51 days, 19 hours and 15 minutes


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