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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 February 2005, 18:23 GMT
Thames crowd cheers on Dame Ellen
Ellen MacA
Ellen MacArthur makes an appearance on the Cutty Sark
Record breaking yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacArthur battled unstable winds, mountainous seas and giant whales during her 27,000-mile trip around the world.

So sailing up and down the Thames for her fans in the freezing cold on a Sunday morning must have seemed a breeze in comparison.

Yet as the 28-year-old sailor stepped off her B&Q trimaran to greet hundreds of well-wishers near the Cutty Sark in Greenwich, it was a surprise to see that even she was feeling the river's cold chill.

"It was fantastic to go up and down the river and see the whole (of Tower) bridge so packed," she told supporters following her 90 minute trip.

"It is incredible to see so many people here today. I really can't believe it."

Trials and tribulations

As she recalled the trials and tribulations of her global voyage - which took 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes and 33 seconds - one member of the crowd shouted: "I want to go."

She joked: "Well have you got 71 days?"

The mayor of Greenwich Brian O'Sullivan, who was there with his wife Sonja, also paid special tribute to Dame Ellen's courage, while close friend Katie Shewster presented the famous yachtswoman with a bouquet of flowers.

It is an incredible achievement when you think of it really - I can't believe she came back alive
Katherine Josselyn

Speaking to the BBC News website before Dame Ellen's arrival, Mr O'Sullivan, said: "I very much welcome Ellen to Greenwich and I am really pleased that she chose to come here.

"Her journey was a tremendous achievement and I'm sure she will continue to build on it.

"It has been a terrific week for us because the International Olympic Committee were down here earlier this week.

"So to have Ellen here as well is a tremendous climax."

Greenwich residents Mark Johnson and Diane Minihane, who were there with their children Teddy, Tom and Paddy, kept a close eye on her progress while she was out on her record voyage.

Greenwich residents
Mark Johnson and Diane Minihane with their children
"I think what she has done is great for British sailing," Mr Johnson said.

"I had my doubts that she was going to break the record at one point when she had problems with her masts during the storms.

"But she got there in the end and I think she can only be applauded for that."

Ms Minihane added: "It is a great occasion and I'm really pleased so many people turned out in the cold.

"It is great for Greenwich that she's here too."

Earlier, she was greeted by a sea of orange flags as she set off on her trip from Greenwich to Tower Bridge and back.

Unfortunately her 45 foot trimaran was too tall to sneak under the Tower Bridge.

But she still managed to keep the crowd entertained by circling the Thames and setting off a series of triumphant flares.

'Small and vulnerable

Sisters Katherine and Alice Josselyn made the trip down with their family to cheer Dame Ellen on from the bridge.

"It is an incredible achievement when you think of it really. I can't believe she came back alive," Katherine said.

"She looked really small and vulnerable next to her boat up from up here."

Cutty Sark
Crowds cheer from the Cutty Sark as Ellen makes her way to the stage
Earlier this month the record breaking yachtswoman crossed the finish line off the French coast before returning to Falmouth in Cornwall after beating the previous solo non-stop round the world record by more than 34 hours.

It was the fastest single-handed time around the world, beating Frenchman Francis Joyon by more than a day.

She was made a Dame in recognition of her achievement and bookies have already made her one of the favourites to win BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

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