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  Sunday, 17 December, 2000, 19:18 GMT
Yachtswoman in near-fatal drama
The Vendee Globe is one of sailing's toughest events
The Vendee Globe is one of sailing's toughest events
British yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur has survived a near-fatal accident in the Indian Ocean as she battles to make up ground in the Vendee Globe yacht race.

MacArthur, lying in fifth position, described her state as "worse than I have ever felt in my life" after having to climb the main mast and manually mend her sail in huge seas.

"Physically I am totally exhausted," she told race organisers from her boat Kingfisher.

"My whole body aches, and I feel drained. My mind feels like it's been frozen.

Ellen MacArthur safely on dry land
Ellen MacArthur safely on dry land
"Yesterday was the hardest challenge of my life.

"Going up the rig is generally the solo sailors worst nightmare - but going up in [a wind of] 40 knots plus - it just doesn't bear thinking about.

"But I knew I had to do it. I knew that if the wind rose further I would be unable to get down the sail.

"In my mind I had no option - I just went into autopilot - put on my harness, rigged up a taught halyard and climbed.

"Each wave I surfed on - each was about 10m high - was trying to throw me off the mast.

It took her over an hour to climb the 15m down the mast.

Chasing the lead

"I barely had the energy to put the sail back up again before collapsing in the cockpit," she said.

"My vision went funny - I was seeing stars permanently, as if I was about to black out."

MacArthur recovered and is now chasing leader Michel Desjoyeaux, who is 337 nautical miles ahead.

Fourth-placed Thomas Coville is just 10 nautical miles in front.

See also:

10 Dec 00 | Other Sports
06 Dec 00 | Other Sports
03 Dec 00 | Other Sports
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