After 27,354 miles with an average speed of 15.9 knots, Ellen MacArthur has broken the non-stop single-handed round the world record. She sailed her 75-foot trimaran B&Q across the finish line at Ushant on Monday, February 7th after 71 days, 14 hours and 33 seconds, just one day and eight hours off the record set last year by Francis Joyon. Said MacArthur. "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." MacArthur's shore team climbed on board B&Q to help her sail the 100 miles to Falmouth, escorted by the Royal Navy' HMS Servern. Joyon was one of the first to congratulate MacArthur. "I always said that Ellen was a serious contender, and I can see today that she has decided to prove me right. The mere fact that she was able to sail around the world non-stop was quite an exploit, but to smash the record at the same time fully deserves my warmest congratulations. Ellen achieved this result through her concentrated efforts. Her team worked hard and backed her before and during her circumnavigation, and she did not ever lose her resolve. Being well supported is one thing, but when you find yourself in the middle of the southern lows in this type of boat, you really feel very alone." The new solo world speed record will need to be ratified by the World Speed Sailing Records Council.
MacArthur overcame a multitude of challenges in her quest for the record. On her final approach to Cape Horn, MacArthur went into survival mode, as violent seas and storm force winds forced her to drop the mainsail entirely for one full night and sailed under the tiny staysail. In winds averaging 40-50 knots, with gusts higher than 60 knots, B&Q was surfing down the waves at over 30 knots. A communication from MacArthur during this time frame, "Wind above 40 knots most of the time, just got hit by a really powerful
wave ... it ripped the gennaker bag off the trampoline, I went to tie it down and got a full frontal wave, totally winded me. The mainsail on the boom also filled up with water in the folds as I've got three reefs in now and have spent last 45 minutes bailing it out. I'm soaked through, I have to try and put some dry clothes on." Another time, the report from B&Q: ""Potential for some gusts to 50+ knots especially near any squalls.
Vertical profiles show winds at a little over 2000 feet in the 50-55 knots; seas at 15-25 feet with some peak waves over 30 feet possible coming down from the north." Then there are times of almost no wind to serve up a different set of challenges. On her 51st day out, MacArthur did nine jibes in just 90 minutes trying to get through a ridge of high pressure. With only 2-3 knots of breeze, and 1.82 boat speed, she encountered extreme frustration. Adding to the complexities of racing for a world record, MacArthur encountered what seemed like a never-ending battle with sleep deprivation. At one point, her communication to land described only three hours of sleep the night before, and she was so tired she force fed herself freeze dried east African pea soup. Additional challenges included the always present danger of a collision: "I hit something last night - I don't know what it was, maybe a fish or a squid. I ended up doing a 360 to get that off. I gibed the boat so the rudder just lifted out of the water and it came off and drifted away." And the wind shifts were monumental. On her approach to the finish line, MacArthur encountered massive wind shifts of up to a 100 degrees forcing her to tack through the wind 11 times - one tack taking her towards the finish, the next tack away.
When MacArthur disembarks from her B&Q,, she will receive a very well-deserved hero's welcome in Falmouth. Her accomplishment is considered the most arduous journey in sailing regardless of age or gender, and not only is she one of the youngest to achieve this award, she is the first woman to do so. MacArthur was at the New York YC last year for a seminar, and it is hard to believe that someone so tiny in build could manage what she has done. If readers go to her website, www.teamellen.com, they will be amazed at her diversity of talents, from expert sailing to boat maintenance. It is hearing about boat repairs under the most trying conditions - rolling seas and high winds - that makes one a fan of this diminutive woman. So when the crowds who have slept in tents and sleeping bags overnight to catch a glimpse of her homecoming, along with the 20 television trucks and more than 300 journalists crowd the waterfront stage to give her a hero's welcome, the only regret is that we can't be there to share in this historic moment. Kudos to Ellen MacArthur for her record, and for giving the sailing world a hero which young and old, male and female, can look to for inspiration.
Some information from US SAILING may be of interest to readers. According to their website, US SAILING, the local IRC Rule Authority, working in relation to the Royal Ocean Racing Club, is offering IRC Ratings in the U.S. IRC is capable of applying a rating to any mono-hull yacht. In doing so, it respects such features as asymmetric spinnakers, carbon masts, canting keels, and water ballast; all of which have been permitted for several years. For more information and to obtain your IRC rating for the U.S., please visit http://www.ussailing.org/offshore/irc.
If sailors are in need of insurance for their one-design boat, US SAILING may be of help. The program, managed by Gowrie, Barden & Brett, started a year ago with 20 approved one-design classes and is now available to more than 50. To find out the available class coverage, to www.gowrie.com/onedesign.
For all local sailors who are itching to get back on the water soon, there is another regatta down south that may be of interest. The Acura Miami Race Week 2005 is gearing up to be a great one. Peter Craig, who managed Key West, will head up the Race Management team, so racers are assured of great sailing. So far, Melges 24, Etchells, Mumm 30 classes have signed on, plus Transpac 52s, Swan 45s, Farr 40s, J/105s and PHRF classes. The race dates are March 10-13, and first entry deadline is tomorrow, Feb. 11. For more information, see www.premier-racing.com.