BBC SPORT Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX    SEARCH 

BBC Sport
 You are in: Special Events: 2001: Vendee Globe  
Sport Front Page
-------------------
Football
Cricket
Rugby Union
Rugby League
Tennis
Golf
Motorsport
Boxing
Athletics
Other Sports
-------------------
Special Events
-------------------
Sports Talk
-------------------
BBC Pundits
TV & Radio
Question of Sport
-------------------
Photo Galleries
Funny Old Game
-------------------
Around The UK: 
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales

BBC Sport Academy
BBC News
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS

  Friday, 9 February, 2001, 16:44 GMT
MacArthur: General of the seas
Ellen MacArthur
MacArthur: the youngest ever competitor in the race
BBC Sport Online's Adrian Harte profiles Britain's sailing star and French fancy Ellen MacArthur.

A Derbyshire yachtswoman, Britain's latest sporting star Ellen MacArthur is something of an oxymoron.

But MacArthur, an overnight sensation in the UK after more than 100 days alone at sea in the Vendee Globe round-the-world yacht race, excels at defying expectations.

While Britain belatedly wakes up to the achievement of the heroine in their midst, MacArthur had found fame in France even before her latest epic odyssey.


Even if Ellen finishes second in the race, for everyone in France she is the winner
Philippe Jeantot, Les Sables d'Olonne organiser

She is known there as 'La Jeune Espoire de la Voile' (sailing's young hope) and is roared on on her departures with the phrase 'Ellen donf' (Ellen full on) - the 24-year-old's own catchphrase.

In many ways, the diminutive Derbyshire mariner sums up the French marine industry: young, cool and vibrant.

Indeed, when she crosses the finishing line at Les Sables d'Olonne this weekend, she will receive a more rapturous reception than likely homegrown winner Michel Desjoyeaux.

Philippe Jeantot from the Les Sables d'Olonne organising committee explained her appeal.

He told BBC Five Live: "She is very popular because she is very young, a woman and she speaks very good French with a little accent and everyone has been charmed.

"More than 200,000 people will be there for her arrival. Every Frenchman and Frenchwoman has followed the race and understands the emotions.

"Even if Ellen finishes second in the race, for everyone in France she is the winner."

Her sailing career began at the age of eight when she was taken sailing on the east coast by an aunt and she was instantly captivated.

Ellen MacArthur
The champagne remains on ice for Ellen

As a schoolgirl, she spent all her spare time reading about and practising sailing; saving up her dinner money to buy a dinghy.

She subsequently resolved to become a professional sailor, and, aged 18, she sailed single-handedly around Europe and was voted Young Sailor of the Year.

However, that was the beginning of a rough voyage, and standing outside the sailing establishment, she struggled to secure vital sponsorship.

She sent 2,500 letters to potential sponsors but received just two replies.

Instead she turned to France. In 1997, she hopped on a cross channel ferry and bought Le Poisson, a 21ft yacht. She refitted the boat, learned French out of necessity and camped next to the boat as she worked on it.

She proceeded to sail 2,700 miles in 33 days in the Mini-Transat solo race from France to Martinique.

She then went on to win her class in the prestigious Route Du Rhum transatlantic race.

However, the Vendee Globe represented a much tougher proposition: a 24,000-mile, round-the-world single-handed race.

MacArthur was one of only two women on the starting grid on 9 November last year and the youngest competitor in the race's history.

Ellen MacArthur
MacArthur has emerged as a jack of all trades
Such a race requires Ellen to be more than just a sailor: she has to be electrician, sail-maker, engineer, cameraman, medic and even reporter, so illuminating are the daily updates on her website.

The whole ordeal has been likened to combining the risk of an Everest expedition, the physical demands of a daily triathlon and the piloting skills of a Formula One driver.

Then there is the question of sleep, with MacArthur employing chronobiologist Claudio Stampi to train her to sleep in 20-minute spells.

For many, merely completing the daunting course would be achievement enough. Not for the indomitable MacArthur.

Although she is unlikely to overtake Desjoyeaux and win the race, she is on course to complete the race in 96 days, smashing the previous record of 105 days.

Ellen MacArthur
Sleep is grabbed in short snatches

She has narrowly avoided collisions with icebergs, sacrificed time to make a mercy mission to save a fellow competitor, had the boat capsize while she was on top of the mast making repairs and collided with a submerged container.

Not surprisingly, she is not counting her chickens just yet.

"My strategy between now and the finish is just to get there," she said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
French tourist Board's Phillipe Jeantot
"Even if Ellen arrives second in the race, for everybody in France she's a winner."
Ellen MacArthur in the Vendee Globe race

Home-coming heroine

Race news

Background

PHOTO GALLERIES

AUDIO/VIDEO

SPORTSTALK
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Vendee Globe stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Vendee Globe stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

Sport Front Page | Football | Cricket | Rugby Union | Rugby League |
Tennis | Golf | Motorsport | Boxing | Athletics | Other Sports |
Special Events | Sports Talk | BBC Pundits | TV & Radio | Question of Sport |
Photo Galleries | Funny Old Game | N Ireland | Scotland | Wales