British yachtswoman leads round-world race

British yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur was celebrating today after she took the lead in the gruelling single-handed Vendee Globe race.

The 24-year-old battled her way from second place in the rankings of the 24,000 mile event shortly after crossing the Equator.

But with her Kingfisher yacht struggling to hold a narrow five-mile advantage she warned: "Don't count your chickens before they're hatched."

MacArthur and her rivals have sailed around the Antarctic and are returning to the starting point of the race, in Les Sables d'Olonne in France.

Previous race leader Michel Desjoyeaux, in his vessel PRB, was close behind in second place when positions were taken at around 10am today.

MacArthur said from on board her 60ft boat: "I'm happy about the rankings but I can't show it when I'm totally exhausted.

"I'm watching out for the others behind. I'm doing the best I can ... we're in the throes of a real race, where I could gain 20 miles in two hours with 10 knots.

"You just have to be cautious about it all, as we say, don't count your chickens before they're hatched."

The yachtswoman, who is in the lead for the first time, is now battling through the Doldrums, the meeting point for the northern and southern hemispheres, which suffers unpredictable weather and long lulls.

She added: "I aim to get out of this zone as soon as possible and get to the finish. I've been at the helm all night and it'll continue to be tough trying to escape this."

Third place Marc Thiercelin was expected to have gained on the leading pair when the yachts' positions were next measured this afternoon.

No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now