29/06/2004

Ellen MacArthur sails to within minutes of transatlantic record

After sailing 2,925 miles, Ellen MacArthur's time in the B&Q trimaran sailing the Atlantic from west to east was just 75 minutes short of the 7 day, 2 hour, 34 minute record set by Laurent Bourgnon in 1994.

Over the seven days the giant yacht averaged just over 17 knots, only to hit a patch of light winds of under 15 knots. This made it impossible for the British yachtswoman to squeeze enough speed out of the massive 75ft racing trimaran to seriously challenge the 10-year record set by Bourgnon.

Commenting on her performance after learning the finish time, Ellen MacArthur said: "It's sad. I've put so much in to this record attempt. I've given it everything I've got. If I think of all the times I could have gained a few minutes, of times I've made small errors, it's very frustrating. But I've learnt huge amounts about myself and the boat. I never imagined being able to push her so hard. And I also haven't pushed myself that hard before, maybe not even in the Vendée Globe. I don't think I've slept for more than 12 hours in total since New York."

Despite "small errors", MacArthur had managed to retake much of the ground lost in the first three days of the attempt on Bourgnon's record. Examining the 'ghost-track' she had made up almost 24 hours to get within some 20 minutes of the previous record track - helped by winds of up to 27 knots - only to be finally defeated by a shift and a substantial decrease in the wind in the final few miles.

She added: "I certainly couldn't have pushed any harder, that's for sure. In the closing stages, the biggest problem was the wind direction, we had to make one extra gybe and during that time while heading to the north we were not making much ground to the finish, but we had no choice to keep the stronger wind.

"At the end of the day the 'Wind Gods' were in control, not me. Two days ago I did actually think it was over, but we came back and got back in the game again. I had started to believe we were going to do it, but clearly it wasn't to be - this time."

On behalf of the main sponsor, B&Q, Marketing Director David Roth said: "Well done, Ellen, for your efforts to break the solo transatlantic record. You set yourself an amazing challenge and your 'can do' spirit is an inspiration to us all. We share your disappointment this time round but we look forward to facing the next big challenge with you and celebrating your success."

(SP)

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