Ellen's photo finish

400m separate the first two boats in the Challenge Mondial Assistance

Wednesday May 23rd 2001, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom
At 0615GMT this morning, Ellen MacArthur and Alain Gautier on board Foncia-Kingfisher crossed the finish line of the Challenge Mondial Assistance in Tarragona, southern Spain in first place, just 400m ahead of Jean-Luc Nelias' Belgacom.

An hour earlier the Anglo-French team had been one mile behind but when the Belgian boat was totally becalmed, Foncia-Kingfisher further east caught a breath of wind and was able to glide past to take victory. After 2,705 miles and ten days of racing, this must be one of the closest finishes ever in a long distance yacht race. Nelias' blue trimaran eventually finished 12 minutes later.
An Eleated Ellen on stepping ashore:

"A great start to the season with Alain. Its been an awesome experience, a fantastic race, and a superb team effort. Yes, very different to the Vendee Globe, but I'm very lucky to be sailing with such a great skipper and crew. The atmosphere was excellent onboard, and everyone very determined - even when we were back in 4th place we kept on working hard and saying its not over until its over. And it wasn't!"

And on Multis and Monohulls?

"You can't really compare them directly. For sure the trimarans are more powerful and very very fast - and sailing with a crew is very different, we're pushing so hard all the time. But the basic principles are similar. This race was also about the ability to keep the machine at 100%, repairing damage as quickly as possible and trying to avoid downtime. That's something very important in solo racing as well."

How did she feel about being up against top America's Cup and Volvo Race Navigators?

"There are a lot of factors in a race like this, not just the tactics. We made one big error which we managed to come back from, and it is certainly a different game to be able to discuss weather and strategic issues with both someone of Alain's experience as well as a shore-based router like Lee Bruce. On the Vendee what is hard is trying to make every decision without that interaction. At the finish line it came down to boat to boat tactics - so we've had a bit of everything. I enjoyed my role during this race, as well as learning a great deal about the performance aspects of these flying machines"

And next?

"A few beers and Spanish tapas maybe! We're all pretty tired, sleep has not been high on the priority in the last few days. Racing in light winds at the finish is harder than when its blowing hard in some ways. Tomorrow, its back to England to carry on with my book writing although a quick trip back to Les Sables d'Olonne for the Vendee prizegiving next weekend. I'm really looking forward to sailing on 'Kingfisher' again though in 3 weeks time at the IMOCA Grand Prix Quiberon. And then it will be back to race with Alain and the guys again in Italy at the end of June..."
Results so far:

1. Foncia-Kingfisher (A Gautier, E MacArthur) ten days 15 minutes 44 seconds
2. Belgacom (J-L Nelias) ten days 27 minutes 42 seconds

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