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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 February 2005, 15:54 GMT
Ellen returns to hero's welcome
by Jonathan Morris
BBC News South West

Ellen MacArthur celebrates on board her boat
Ellen MacArthur was delighted with the reception she received
Round-the-world sailor Ellen MacArthur has arrived back on dry land after her 71-day record-breaking voyage.

Under blue skies and accompanied by a huge flotilla of boats, she guided her boat B&Q back to Falmouth in Cornwall to a welcome by thousands of people.

The 28-year-old yachtswoman crossed the finish line off France at about 2230 GMT on Monday night.

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

Fans from around the country raised a huge cheer for MacArthur as she pulled up alongside the Port Pendennis Marina and stepped onto dry land just before 1215 GMT.

MacArthur had a few special words for the people of Falmouth as she arrived.

"It is just unbelievable and quite amazing to see so many people here," she said.

Everyone should look at her and realise that if they follow their dreams they can do it
Pat Tomlinson, from Carlisle

"I am so happy to be here in Falmouth and we could not have had a better reception."

Falmouth School had even been given a day off to support her.

Maeve Clarke, 15, said: "She's an inspiration to all young sailors. We are totally in awe of what she has done."

Falmouth residents Bill and Sylvia Vodden said: "We have been following her every step of the way. It's a fantastic British achievement.

"She has not had it easy and it shows you what can be achieved if you follow your dreams."

Crowds in Falmouth
Crowds gathered to watch Ellen MacArthur return to port
Patrick and Tanya Walsh were there with their three children, Dominic, Grace and Boniface.

Mr Walsh said: "This is a fantastic day for sailing in the area. These sorts of days are a part of history, so we had to be here."

Falmouth has welcomed returning sailing heroes before. In 1969, it greeted Robin Knox-Johnston on the first solo voyage around the world, but nothing has ever been seen on this scale.

Thousands of banner-waving people packed the area around the Maritime Museum where drummers and other performers created a party atmosphere under a huge screen showing MacArthur's return.

The car park at Pendennis Point, where hundreds gathered, had been full since 0630 GMT and people had been congregating in Event Square to greet MacArthur since 0500 GMT.

Children holding a banner
Schoolchildren have their own personal greeting for MacArthur

The Tourist Information Centre had been renamed the Ellen Information Centre.

Jonathan Griffin, director of the Maritime Museum, said: "This has revived our island spirit. It is a catalyst for sailing's development. It is everything we hoped for."

Pat Tomlinson, 42, had travelled from Carlisle. She said: "Ellen is really a heroine as far as I am concerned. Everyone should look at her and realise that if they follow their dreams they can do it."

Isle of Wight resident MacArthur and her 75ft trimaran left Falmouth on 27 November last year for the start line at Ushant off the French coast.

Then she was cheered off by a crowd of 400 and a 40-boat flotilla.

Ellen MacArthur's boat surrounding by crowds in Falmouth
Ellen MacArthur's boat docked at the Port Pendennis Marina

Among those enjoying a carnival atmosphere in Falmouth were Arthur and Val Roberts, from Worcester, who set up camp in a small caravanette near Events Square.

Mr Roberts said: "We have been watching it in Worcester and we had to be here. It's a fantastic achievement."

Event Square was filled with the cheers from about 8,000 people as Knox-Johnston and MacArthur addressed the crowd from a stage set up outside the Maritime Museum.

Knox-Johnston gave MacArthur a big hug and said: "One year ago Francis Joyon set a record that everyone thought was out of sight, three weeks faster than before.

"Now this slip of a thing has taken a day off that.

"We are immensely proud of you in Falmouth. You have put us back on the sailing map, and we are all grateful to you, Dame Ellen."


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