Ellen devastated, as KINGFISHER narrowly escapes disaster as Genoa Forestay (main piece of rigging holding mast forward) fails at top of mast – but the mast holds, for now at least. This happened suddenly after she had just finished using the Genoa and had furled it away, at just before 1730 GMT Wednesday. The lashings that hold the genoa itself on to the mast have held the rod and sail in place, but clearly not being able to support any load. Distraught and exhausted, Ellen continued to sail for the past 36 hours with a massively reduced sailplan – which serves as a complete explanation as to why the miles have been increasing between PRB and KINGFISHER.

* To suffer this in the very final stages is a cruel test to the young skipper that has had her fair share of bad luck in the past couple of weeks. Sailing the boat slowly, well below its potential, in order to preserve the mast and her chances of completing the Vendee Globe has become a tough mental challenge for Ellen – never content if the boat is not happy and fast… She is restricted to 2 reefs and Solent, and the gennaker only if conditions are very stable (one wipeout with the gennaker could risk further damage to the mast). Ellen is hoping for increased winds that will mean her ‘safe’ reduced sail configuration (2 reefs and Solent jib) will send her off down the waves with sufficient power that she won’t miss the rest of the sail area. Unfortunately yesterday, the wind gods didn’t play, and she was often making as little as 6 knots towards Les Sables – a depressing ETA calculation.

* Tactically, Ellen had no wish to share this bad news for the past 36 hours – “I didn’t want to give Mich a reason to ease off, he could equally suffer gear failure if he pushes…and I didn’t want to give Bilou a reason to attack harder than he would normally at this late stage in the race. However, as one can see my heading and speed have dropped away compared with Mich, I decided it was time to share this bad news. I now have to just focus on finishing in the top 3, its a long hard way to the finish still, and its been a difficult 10 days. I’m ready to finish”

* If Ellen does complete the course in the next few days, she will be the youngest ever competitor to finish, and the fastest woman around the planet – and only the second solo sailor to get around the globe in less than 100 days…but we’ll wait for that finishing line before getting too excited…

* ETA : Depending on whether the wind fills in or not with the depression right behind Ellen, and that the mast retains its form, she could still be in late on Sunday or early Monday – but of course, anything could happen – that we have learnt.

* SILL (700 behind KINGFISHER) and ACTIVEWEAR will fight it out, with ACTIVEWEAR 600 miles to the west and possibly to pick up first the same depression that is about to touch Ellen. SODEBO and UBP are just 4 miles apart, a further 500 miles back.


LISTEN TO THE BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF EVENTS WHEN THE FORESTAY BROKE ONBOARD KINGFISHER, LEAVING HER TO LIMP HOME DEFENDING HER IMPRESSIVE SECOND PLACE Communications sponsored by British Telecom http://www.btopenworld.com. In Realplayer clickhere. Or Download in mp3 at clickhere.

Interview with Richard Simmonds last night, 24 hours after the rigging failure.

ELLEN describes more drama onboard KINGFISHER, that happened on Wednesday evening around 1730 GMT. One of the forestays, there are two [one for big genoa, the other for smaller Solent jib], that hold the mast up and go from the mast to the front of the boat, snapped…..Ellen cannot now sail at full power….for MacArthur the plan is now simple, she has to sail half power to the finish line…her game plan…just reach Les Sables d’Olonne…

RS : Can you tell us about the last 24 hours?

EM : Things were a little bit tough when we came out of the back of the depression that was ahead of us. We’d had very strong winds, and we’d been ma