Near disaster for Ellen

Rig failure nearly drops mast over the side, Mark Chisnell reports

Friday February 9th 2001, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
Ellen MacArthur has suffered another near disaster - on Wednesday evening at about 1730 GMT the genoa forestay failed at the top of the mast, just after she had furled the sail. Her shore team reported, "Distraught and exhausted, Ellen continued to sail for the past 36 hours with a massively reduced sailplan."

Leaders at 0400, 9/2/01

Ellen (light blue) had been losing to Michel Desjoyeaux (red) since yesterday morning's position reports, which initially looked like it was just because he'd got into the new low pressure system first. But with the gap another 40 miles bigger this morning - at 237 miles - and Ellen if anything in better breeze now, it was becoming more evident that something serious had happened.

Ellen has provided more information on the disaster, and we can see from this morning's charts that Ellen has turned north (above). Because she can only use a reduced sail plan of just a solent headsail and two reefs she is probably sailing a higher angle to keep her speed up and get into that strong breeze that will help push her home fast.

Weather at 2000, 10/2/01

The only good thing about this is that from the forecast for Saturday (above), these last 700 or so miles all look to be in strong downwind breeze for Ellen. In these conditions she won't be at much of a disadvantage with her reduced sail. The real problem will be if she has to go on the wind at any stage, especially in light air - let's hope that this doesn't happen.

Life remains smooth for leader Michel Desjoyeaux, less than 500 miles from the finish at Les Sables at the poll early this morning. But third placed Roland Jourdain (dark blue) has continued to lose distance on the two leaders, he's gone back to another 80 miles further behind Ellen in the last 24 hours and has a gap of 750 miles to close. That's more than the distance Ellen has to go to the finish - she can take it as steady as she needs to, just finish those final 700 odd miles in one piece!

Jourdain does look like he will edge his battle with fourth placed Marc Thiercelin (light brown). Although Thiercelin is in better breeze at the moment, he's almost 300 miles behind his close rival. Worse is that the forecast for Saturday now has a really nasty and intense little low pressure spinning off the main system right in Thiercelin's path. This could produce some rough conditions, or even force him to sail upwind if he ends up to the north of the centre. Positioned more to the south-east, Jourdain is much better placed to avoid this system and should be able to hold his lead.

continued on page two

Map images courtesy of Virtual Spectator, click here to go to the VS site.

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