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Over the past few days Sailors Mike Golding and Ellen MacArthur have been vying like cat and dog for pole position


In the past few pollings we have seen Ellen streaking ahead, then this morning, in the eye of the battle – Ecover’s spinnaker exploded…followed by a lengthy ascent to the heights for Ellen.

The conditions according to Ellen at the 1100 GMT report : Winds 20-25 knots, just had hour with 28-30 knots. Big breeze for this spinnaker - couldn't get the thing down if I tried in any case!

Only thing to do was to hang on so going very fast at the moment doing 18 knots over the ground and going to be gybing in about half an hour I think. I'm doing 290'- wind shifting miraculously round in last couple of hours so time to gybe. Don't know if a) I can get kite down in 23 knots of breeze and b) if I can get it up the other side as well. It (the kite) is the right sail we need to get out of here [high pressure].

At 23 knots pilot cannot steer the boat. Have not put reef in yet - going to put reef in whilst waiting for big wind shift and see if that makes a difference. Might make enough difference to keep it [kite/spi]. It's a lot of wind for a spinnaker... The wind this morning just got big from 23 knots then suddenly 27, 28, 29 for 1 hour this morning - can't control it..."

We learnt this morning that this same fickle wind unfortunately blew at full force into Mike Golding’s masthead spinnaker that subsequently exploded. Considering the fun and games Ellen has had with her kite this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Between the 0700 and 1100 GMT Mike had dropped back another 6 miles, increasing Ellen’s advance to 33 nautical miles.

But then the wind picked on Kingfisher. The lashing on the gennaker halyard block chafed through, forcing her to drop the spinnaker and scale the 27 metre mast of her 60ft racing machine. To not re-secure the halyard would mean racing KINGFISHER at less than 100%. After successfully battling for two hours up the mast she was able to fix it and only lost between 5-6 miles on ECOVER as the boat was slowed to allow Ellen's ascent up the mast.

Being a former fireman Mike is more than used to dealing with awkward situations however so doubtless the battle will continue to rage between the king and queen of British sailing. And Ellen is very aware of that : it never seems enough knowing one mistake, one wipe out and ECOVER will pounce. In addition, the weather forecast predicts stronger winds, and the light wind spinnaker might not be needed.

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