Page last updated at 13:13 GMT, Sunday, 4 October 2009 14:13 UK

Yachtswoman Dame Ellen to retire

Ellen MacArthur

Round-the-world yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacArthur has announced her retirement from competitive sailing so she can focus on environmental campaigning.

Dame Ellen, 33, spoke of her decision on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs.

She said she gained a new understanding of the issue during two months spent camping on the remote island of South Georgia in the southern Atlantic.

In 2006, Dame Ellen broke the record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe.

She said: "I never thought that anything in my life could eclipse sailing, I didn't think it was possible.

'New understanding'

"But after being in South Georgia, after learning these lessons I suppose, and the more I researched into it, the more frightened I got and that has really scared me to the point that I can't go back to sea and go around the world again because this really matters."

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She said the trip three years ago changed her attitude towards her life and her view of the world.

"I realised that on land we don't see things as precious any more. We take what we want. And it started to make me think. I was looking at plans for the future and it hit home to me.

"This world, that I thought as a child was the biggest, most adventurous place you could imagine, is not that big. And there's an awful lot of us on it.

"And we're not managing the resources that we have as you would on a boat because we don't have the impression that these resources are limited."

Her new priority is sustainable living and she said it was living on a boat which made her realise how many resources are wasted.

Will I invest four years of my life to sailing round the world - no. This new understanding for me has become far more important
Dame Ellen MacArthur

"When you sail on a boat you take with you the minimum of resources. You don't waste anything. You don't leave the light on; you don't leave a computer screen on. And I realised that on land we take what we want," she explained.

"You'd never do that on a boat. If you need some kitchen roll, you tear off a corner, not a whole square. But someone somewhere thought that a perforated line was what everyone needs."

Dame Ellen said she would continue to sail for pleasure and to raise money for charity.

'Still love sailing'

"I still sail, I love sailing, I'll still sail for pleasure, I sail for charity - the Ellen MacArthur Trust for kids with cancer, leukaemia, but as long as this challenge is there to be communicated, will I invest four years of my life to sailing round the world - no," she said.

"This new understanding for me has become far more important."

Her record of 71 days and 14 hours was broken in 2008 by Francis Joyon, the French sailor, who took 14 days off the time.

She told the programme: "There is a part of me that wants that record back, but something's stopping me do it."

Listen back to Desert Island Discs on the BBC's iPlayer.

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