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  Sunday, 11 February, 2001, 19:33 GMT
Edwards lauds MacArthur's efforts
Ellen MacArthur in action on her boat
MacArthur has braved the elements singlehandedly
Tracy Edwards, the female star of sailing in the 1990s, reveals her thoughts on Ellen MacArthur's heroics in the Vendee Globe to BBC Sport Online's Mark Ashenden.

As her boat limped with a wounded mast towards the finish line of the round-the-world race, Ellen MacArthur may have felt a little disappointed with the way her voyage is ending.

The British yachtswoman finished second in the Vendee Globe race, having pushed leader Michel Desjoyeaux all the way over a gruelling and life-threatening three months.

But Tracy Edwards, who knows a thing or two about taking a boat around the world's oceans, is ecstatic about the efforts of Britain's new queen of the waters.

"She's done brilliantly - for her to win the event would have been absolutely extraordinary," Edwards said.

All alone

"Just to get round in one piece is a remarkable achievement in itself."

There is, however, one huge difference between MacArthur and Edwards, who was the first female to complete the Whitbread Round the World race in 1990.


You just cannot function when you are suffering from tiredness
Tracy Edwards

MacArthur is with nobody - nobody to talk to, nobody to help her on the boat, just nobody.

"I would hate to be on a boat on my own," revealed Edwards.

"I have always preferred to sail with a crew, but sailing solo has its advantages and disadvantages.

"Ellen is under enormous pressure because she's totally on her own, but at least, she has only got herself to look after."

A tiring business

Edwards, who headed an all-female attempt to circumnavigate the globe in 1998, highlighted the differences of having a crew to think about.

"When you are skipper, you are responsible for everybody - their lives, but you have to work together," Edwards said.

Tracy Edwards on board her boat
Edwards is not happy sailing alone

Sleeping is an obvious problem for those sailing singlehandedly, with MacArthur's project manager Mark Turner telling BBC Sport Online on Thursday how tired she had become.

"Sleep deprivation is an obvious problem for Ellen," Edwards said, explaining that a sleeping rota operates for sailing crews.

"You just cannot function when you are suffering from tiredness, and in Ellen's case, this can be magnified by a thousand times.

Home welcoming for Ellen

"Sailing really wears you down - physically and mentally, and this must be starting to really get to Ellen."

Edwards said that her race in 1990 had been completed in chunks of five or six weeks, and expressed a preference for non-stop racing.


I'd like to think our crew started the ball rolling and Ellen is the end product
Tracy Edwards
"The ports proved a distraction and you lost your monentum," she said.

MacArthur arrived on the French shores 24 hours after race winner Michel Desjoyeaux - and with a grand reception awaiting her, the profile of sailing continues to rise.

Combined with Britain's multiple gold-winning efforts in the Sydney Olympics, Edwards is delighted with the current state of the sport, with women's sailing receiving particular praise.

"It's come along in leaps and bounds, and about time too," she said.

"I'd like to think our crew started the ball rolling and Ellen is the end product."

Edwards remains busy, having just released her autobiography, Living Every Second, and is project manager for the crew preparing for another go in this year's Jules Verne Challenge.

Edwards recalled the crew's heartache from three years ago of a broken mast ending their race after 43 days.

"It is unfinished business," Edwards said. And you know she is not joking.

MacArthur may well feel the same after a good night's sleep.

Ellen MacArthur in the Vendee Globe race

Home-coming heroine

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