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  Thursday, 15 February, 2001, 17:17 GMT
Ellen receives heroine's welcome
Ellen MacArthur on Kingfisher nearing Southampton
Ellen approaches Southampton on Kingfisher
Sailing sensation Ellen MacArthur has returned to Britain at the helm of the boat that helped her become the youngest person and the fastest woman to complete the single-handed around the world yacht race.

The 24-year-old steered the Kingfisher Challenge vessel up the Solent to Southampton accompanied by a virtual armada of boats.

One ferry with 150 people on board sailed out to meet Kingfisher, with the Royal Navy and the Coastguard also sending out boats to welcome MacArthur.


I was amazed at the welcome in Britain
Ellen MacArthur
A delighted MacArthur happily posed for photographs and one point even hung off the bowsprit with her feet dangling in the water.

As she came to shore she waved flares from the boat, with the cacophony of cheers from the crowd contrasting with the silent solitude her epic journey.

She again looked reluctant to leave the boat - her home for more than three months - as she soaked up the acclaim of the shoreside audience.

MacArthur was then the focus of intense attention at a news conference at the Royal Yacht Club in Southampton.

She said: "I was amazed at the welcome in Britain. In France, I knew what to expect but here I did not know what it would be like."

She added that it had been "difficult to get off the boat" and that she had no definite plans for the future except to "continue being Ellen."

She said she hoped to write a book about her experiences and that she hoped to sail Kingfisher again soon.

Ellen MacArthur
Ellen waves a flare on her arrival in Southampton
The final leg of Ellen's journey from the Isle of Wight to Southampton was not without trouble, with problems with the main sail meaning the boat had to be towed over the final few miles.

However, MacArthur was greeted by hazy sunshine and little wind on the south coast.

Her Kingfisher boat left France on Tuesday without MacArthur. She joined the 60ft yacht as it started its homeward journey off the Needles off the Isle of Wight coast.

MacArthur, born in Derbyshire and based in the Isle of Wight, finished second in the Vendee Globe race.

On Sunday more than 200,000 people lined the port and shoreline at Les Sables d'Olonne in France, to welcome Ellen back after her gruelling 24,000-mile, 94-day round-the-world triumph.

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Ellen MacArthur
Speaks at a press conference at the Royal Southampton Yacht Club
Ellen MacArthur in the Vendee Globe race

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