MacArthur's record under threat

Dame Ellen MacArthur’s single-handed round-the-world record is under threat. After only five days at sea Frenchman Francis Joyon is more than a day, or more than 600 miles, ahead of where MacArthur was in 2004. in his simple but powerful 97ft-long IDEC II, which is 22ft longer than MacArthur’s B&Q, Joyon has been powering south from Brest at 500 miles a day.

Joyon, the 51-year-old Breton whose 2004 record MacArthur took, has not disappointed. It was over this part of the race that MacArthur excelled and she was five days ahead of Joyon’s record six weeks in, before stalling and only just beating it. But MacArthur was averaging just over 19 knots as she passed the Canaries. Joyon is averaging about 25. He crossed back east of MacArthur’s path and passed through the Santa Luzia Channel, the narrowest point of the Cape Verde archipelago, off Senegal, on his way down the coast of West Africa.

However, Joyon has a lot of ocean to cover, with 19,000 miles to go. ‘Anything can happen,’ MacArthur said. ‘Everyone thought I would break the record easily because they saw I was five days ahead of Joyon in my record, but then I had no lead by the time I got to Brazil. ‘But by starting this early – I think I started almost at the same time of year for mine – if something goes wrong he can go back and start again in the right conditions.’