MacArthur's crown is safe... for now

The sound of a fat lady singing must be echo-ing in 68-year-old Tony Bullimore’s head right now. After waiting over three months tobeginhis attempt on MacArthur’s solo circumnavigation record and endless protestations that he would start, and would finish, his attempt is over barely after it had begun. The fact that Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, also 68, has just finished his circumnavigation in triumph, will not make the pill any less bitter for Bullimore to swallow.

The beginning of the end was marked last week by the pin securing his forestay to the forward beam losing its retaining bolt and working loose, leaving Bullimore’s 102ft catamaran Doha in danger of dismasting. ‘If the pin had pulled out completely, the rig would have fallen down and I would have been left adrift,’ Bullimore admits.

‘When I found it during a daylight check of the rig a few days ago, my heart almost stopped,’ he continued. ‘I can only assume that the retaining bolt came loose during the bashing Doha received in the 50kn winds experienced a week ago. All I can say is thank goodness it happened now and not when I was deep in the Southern Ocean or close to Cape Horn.’

Having lashed the forestay to the forward beam, Bullimore pulled out of the record attempt on Friday 11 May, heading for Auckland, New Zealand under reduced sail from a position nearly 1,200nm SE of Wellington.

Amazingly, or foolishly, depending on one’s point of view, Bullimore is still adamant that he will continue his quest to be the fastest man around the planet. ‘Once repairs have been completed, I will sail back to Hobart and re-start the Blue Ocean Wireless Round the World Challenge later in the year.’ But with Thomas Colville and Francis Joyon, two of France’s best solo sailors, both planning their own quiet attempts on Ellen’s record this autumn aboard brand new Nigel Irens-Benoit Cabaret designed trimarans, some might think Bullimore’s loudly proclaimed plans less sublime, more ridiculous.

Picture: Can 68-year-old Tony Bullimore take on Thomas Colville’s new weapon?