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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 February, 2005, 14:05 GMT
MacArthur's route
The start and finish is an imaginary line between Lizard Point, UK, and Ushant, France DoldrumsCape of Good Hope (South Africa)Cape Leeuwin (Australia)Cape Horn (South America)

Click on the hotspots above to find out more about Ellen MacArthur's route around the world.

Start and finish
MacArthur started across an imaginary line stretched between England's Lizard Point and Ushant on the coast of France.

Sailors on round-the-world voyages than head south through the infamous Bay of Biscay, where strong autumn westerlies create tough sailing into headwinds.

Conditions tend to become more favourable for fast sailing down the western coasts of Spain and Portugal as the boat starts to harness the north-east trade winds approaching the Canary Islands.

Doldrums
This area either side of the equator is known as the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone, a belt of variable weather which can yield either very light winds or violent squalls.

The exact extent of the area is hard to predict but can stretch over thousands of square miles.

The doldrums are historically narrower at the eastern end but anyone choosing this route has to sail upwind into the south-east trades.

A more western crossing can take longer but gives boats a better angle downwind on the other side.

The next weather system sailors aim for is the St Helena high, which must be passed to the west to reap the faster downwind conditions into the Southern Ocean.

Cape of Good Hope (South Africa)
Turning left at the bottom of the Atlantic, sailors enter the Southern Ocean, in which they face a treacherous 15,000-mile voyage through the most savage seas on the planet.

Storm-force winds generated by depression after deep depression, huge waves, temperatures often below freezing and ice are the order of the day for about five weeks.

The further south a boat goes, the shorter the route, but that carries the risk of straying too far into iceberg territory - a collision with an iceberg would spell the end of the boat and put a sailor's life in jeopardy.

Cape Leeuwin (Australia)
The extreme south-west tip of Australia is a long way to the north of any intended round-the-world route but a boat in difficulty early in its Southern Ocean passage may see the west coast as its only refuge.

After her Kingfisher 2 was dismasted in the Jules Verne round-the-world race in 2003, MacArthur and her crew limped 2,000 miles to Fremantle under jury rig.

Cape Horn (South America)
The legendary landmark of round-the-world sailors, Cape Horn marks the end of the Southern Ocean.

But it needs to be treated with respect, as the ocean shelves rapidly and narrows to about 200 miles between South America and Antarctica, squeezing the weather systems and generating highly confused - and often dangerous - seas.

Once past the Cape, temperatures quickly rise and the journey home up the east coasts of Argentina and Brazil is largely upwind, although MacArthur was delayed in this area because of light winds.

The doldrums again have to be negotiated before the north-east trades and the Azores high present more upwind challenges.

Northern hemisphere winter storms as sailors approach the finish provide fast but tough sailing right to the end.



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