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Ellen MacArthur
Ellen MacArthur

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST: Well my next guest this morning is still in her mid-twenties but her achievements could fill a lifetime already. Last year Ellen MacArthur became the first woman ever to sail around the world single-handed without touching land, and she won the MBE as well of course, and this week she's been announcing an exciting new venture as well, to compete in one of the toughest team challenges in sport. She was also named Yachtsman - or should that be Yachtsperson of the Year - they call it yachtsman do they?

ELLEN MacARTHUR: Yachtsman - that's okay.

DAVID FROST: That's okay. All right. Anyway, Ellen MacArthur is with me now. Ellen, first of all congratulations on that roster of achievements. Just tell us about your new challenge, because this is not a solitary challenge is it?

ELLEN MacARTHUR: No, the biggest next part of the challenge is actually round the world once again next winter, and it's going to be to try and beat the round the world record, so that's basically the fastest you can get round the world.

DAVID FROST: Is that the Jules Verne one?

ELLEN MacARTHUR: The Jules Verne Trophy, yes.

DAVID FROST: And what boat and how many people?

ELLEN MacARTHUR: There will be about ten to 12 people on board - we're still at the moment trying to decide who will be coming with us - and the boat will be about the size, the same size as four tennis courts - it's one of the big mega-cats we'll be chartering.

DAVID FROST: Four tennis courts.

ELLEN MacARTHUR: Yes, they're very big boats.

DAVID FROST: And the record that you're going to try and beat is - what 71 days?

ELLEN MacARTHUR: Seventy-one days, 14 hours and 22 minutes. It's very fast all the same but -

DAVID FROST: So what - I mean obviously your target is to break the record - but what do you hope you can hit?

ELLEN MacARTHUR: It's difficult to say because it depends very much on the weather, in the Vendee Globe for example, we smashed the record by more days than anyone could imagine, the previous record I think was about a hundred days and we were 94 and 93. So if you could take ten days off it, it would be nice, but that's looking on the very, very positive side.

DAVID FROST: And what about looking back on that amazing solo trip, what was the worst moment? Was it, was it a lonely moment, a dangerous moment or a boring moment with food?

ELLEN MacARTHUR: There were very few moments with food but I think there's no doubt really the hardest moment was the end of the race, getting off the boat and kind of seeing the finish of it really. You know, kind of being there straight in front of you - the finish line was there and it was all over and on one side that was great but on the other side it was just, you know, your life just disappears because it had been such a challenge for a long time. So getting over that took quite some doing.

DAVID FROST: What was your diet?

ELLEN MacARTHUR: It was basically freeze dried food. There were a couple of bars, chocolate bars and health bars, but those packets, aluminium packets, pour in cold or hot water and the food kind of rehydrates and there you go, and it's okay, it's getting better year by year.

DAVID FROST: And what about, was there a heart-stopping moment or no danger all the way around the world?

ELLEN MacARTHUR: Oh no there were a few pretty dangerous moments and I think probably only twice in the race was I really scared and both of those were up the mast. One at the equator on the way home and the other deep in the southern ocean, in probably the worst storm we saw, and I was hanging off the mast with one hand in a little webbing loop and that was - the hardest thing is not the fact that you're hanging with one arm but the fact that you're hitting waves and you're literally just thrown into the mast and it's a pretty hard thing to hit when you're about 30 feet up.

DAVID FROST: And what, when you're there on your own, what's the sleeping pattern, if there is one?

ELLEN MacARTHUR: It depends really on the weather completely. In very, very light winds it's harder to sleep than in big storms, in many ways, because you're trying to keep the boat going. But I averaged about five and a half hours in 24, and that would be in slices of about 20, 40 or 70 minutes - so pretty short spells.

DAVID FROST: So it's almost catnaps, yes?

ELLEN MacARTHUR: Very much so. And people say how do you wake up and don't you just fall asleep for eight hours, but in fact it's more how do you go to sleep because you don't want to sleep, because you just want to push the boat harder.

DAVID FROST: So those moments of danger, now are you going to in fact miss being on your own in this new one, or are you actually going to be delighted to be part of a team - or are you going to find it awkward to be part of a team?

ELLEN MacARTHUR: I think a year ago if you'd have asked me the same question I would have said I really want to sail on my own but after the last year - 2001 was a fantastic season, where I did three major crew races, two of which we won and one of which we came second, and the atmosphere on board and just the bond between the crew was just amazing and that really changed my perspective of sailing with a crew. And it's on the basis of that we're planning to go on to the Jules Verne.

DAVID FROST: And the other vital thing of course is you've got a sponsor - Kingfisher as a sponsor - I mean that's essential really, you have to be a bit of a businesswoman as well to finance these things, don't you?

ELLEN MacARTHUR: It is really important. When we initially went to Kingfisher we didn't go saying what we want to do is stick your name on the side of the boat and go sailing, it was a case of we want to work with you to make this project work. And we really have pushed hard for that and we've worked hard with Kingfisher and I think it's been a success for everyone because it, you know, sponsorship is important and many people say in speeches, you know, I'd like to thank my sponsor, and it kind of goes as just one of those things that you say but without them there's no way I'd be sitting here right now.

DAVID FROST: And what about the future, after this, after Jules Verne, are there sort of new watery mountains to climb?

ELLEN MacARTHUR: Well when we launched the Jules Verne attempt we launched a five year sponsorship plan so we'll be continuing with Kingfisher until 2006 and that plan also includes two major races, called The Route de Rhun, which is run every four years, and there are two of that race in the next five years, one this November and then one in November 2006 on a new trimaran we'll be building.

DAVID FROST: And in fact can you do this for ever, I mean is this a sport like, is it like swimming where you're over the top at 17 or is it more like cricket where you can still be a top class player at 40?

ELLEN MacARTHUR: I think when you're in professional and competitive sailing, I think when you get to about the age of 40 or just over then it's hard to, when you're single-handed, because you have to be physically fit then it's quite hard to be right at the top but then you can change things, in the Vendee Globe there's a guy who went round who finished at the age of 60. So, you know, it really is possible to keep going and he was on a high performance boat as well.

DAVID FROST: Well I can end - sometimes you often end with the phrase bon voyage, but in this case, we mean it very much indeed. Bon voyage, with Jules Verne.

ELLEN MacARTHUR: Thank you.


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