Ellen Macarthur sails solo around the world

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Ellen Macarthur sails solo around the world

Southampton, Hampshire The 7th of February 2005 AD

When Ellen Macarthur set a new world record for solo-circumnavigation of the globe in a sailing vessel there was a strangely mixed reaction across the country.

Crossing the finish line on the 7th February, about 71.5 days after her voyage commenced, she was generally feted by the news media, and was immediately made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, the youngest ever.

While the voyage of nearly 51,000km was self-evidently a gruelling one, and shaving a day and eight hours off the previous record was impressive, there were aspects of the undoubted achievement that somehow seemed to take the gloss off it.

Perhaps the public was disenchanted with hi-tech record breakers in general with balloons costing millions, and her specially designed 75 foot trimaran. Macarthurís broadcasts moaning about the loneliness of the trip and her lack of sleep provoked the obvious rejoinders. And using a boat called B&Q meant that that very British ideal of the plucky amateur was blown out of the water every time the vesselís name was pronounced.

Ellen Macarthur is a driven woman, and for some a threateningly young one, just 28 when the record was set. Her nature was underlined by the record lap she set on BBCís Top Gear programme, and her technical skill is clear. What she does is so far removed from ordinary existence as to be impossible to understand for most of us. Her voyage was extraordinary, the dangers faced very real, and the record perhaps a source of national pride, but the motivation and indeed justification for such feats is hard to grasp.

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