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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 February, 2005, 14:15 GMT
Britain welcomes Dame Ellen home
Ellen MacArthur celebrates her round-the-world sailing record after arriving back in Falmouth on board her boat B&Q
Ellen MacArthur has been welcomed back to Britain by huge crowds after sailing solo around the world in record time.

The 28-year-old, who is to be made a dame, sailed her boat B&Q into Falmouth Harbour in Cornwall at 1147 GMT.

MacArthur said: "This is the moment when we all realise that we've done it, that we've actually achieved it."

She completed her voyage in 71 days 14 hours 18 minutes and 33 seconds, beating by 33 hours the record set in 2004 by France's Francis Joyon.

MacArthur, who has been battling storms and high winds for much of the 27,348-mile journey, eclipsed Joyon's mark when she crossed the finish line between Ushant in France and Lizard Point in Cornwall at 2229 GMT on Monday.

She was escorted into Falmouth by a huge flotilla of boats.

Fans of Ellen MacArthur in Cornwall proclaiming her honour
MacArthur said she was "overawed" by her achievement and the welcome she received, and felt "incredibly privileged" to have been awarded her honour.

"The boat was just tuned perfectly coming into home as the sun set yesterday and there were stars in the sky," she said.

"And I smelt the land again and I could see the light at Ushant flashing and I thought finally there was the land - and that was coming home - and that was a good feeling. That was the first time I began to relax."

MacArthur thanked the crowds that had gathered, saying: "Seeing you all here to welcome me is an unbelievable experience.

"I can't believe how many people are out here watching."

MacArthur embraced her parents, Ken and Avril, who joined her on the boat, saying it would be "fantastic to spend time with them again".

Ellen MacArthur's boat is accompanied back into Falmouth by a flotilla of boats
"I'll just be really, really relieved to spend some time with my family," she said. "That's what I'm looking forward to, and just to relax because for over two months it has been relentless."

But she admitted she did not know how she would deal with the adulation and inevitable demands on her that will follow her achievement.

"I don't think I'm prepared for what's going to happen. I'm so tired and elated I'm just going to let it happen," she said.

Tributes have been pouring in from fellow sailors, fans and other public figures.

The Queen and Prime Minister Tony Blair were among the first to pass on their congratulations.

MacArthur was also awarded the honorary rank of lieutenant commander in the Royal Navy.

MacArthur, who already has a series of major sailing achievements to her credit, said: "It has been the hardest thing I've ever undertaken. It's pushed me further than I've ever been pushed before.

1976: Born 8 July, Derbyshire
1995: Sails around GB alone
1997: 17th in transatlantic race
1998: Wins Open 50 class, Route du Rhum
1999: JYA Yachtsman of Year
2000: 1st in Europe1 New Man STAR transatlantic race
2001: 2nd in Vendee Globe; 2nd in Transat Jacques Vabre with Alain Gautier; FICO world offshore champion
2002: Awarded MBE; Wins Route du Rhum in new record
2003: Broken mast ends Jules Verne round-the-world bid
2004: Misses out on west-east transatlantic record by 75mins
2005: Fastest solo circumnavigation of globe
"I don't think I will ever be able to communicate how difficult it has been."

She said she would continue to sail on B&Q .

"There are lots of other records out there. The trans-Atlantic record I missed out on last year is almost certainly something I'll be aiming for, and maybe round Britain and Ireland solo. I'm not keen to sever my connections with the boat."

There has been criticism that MacArthur's feat does not compare with that of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who was the first person to sail solo and non-stop around the world in 1969.

But Knox-Johnston himself said: "A year ago a very tough and determined Frenchman put the record out of sight, or so we thought. We all thought it would take 10 years to beat that.

"The record was up there and she stretched it that little bit further. It is an amazing achievement."

MacArthur's project director Mark Turner added: "Ellen grew up with Robin and the famous names from sailing.

"They were her heroes and she would be the first person to acknowledge that what they achieved was quite extraordinary and can never be repeated.

"But technology moves on, like in all sports, and you can only compete in the time you live. Right now, things are very different. The boats are high-technology.

Ellen MacArthur relaxes on board her boat on Tuesday morning
"You'll always get some people who like to chip away and find a reason why it shouldn't be good.

"At the end of the day, Ellen was out there for herself to break a record and the bonus for her is that we managed to engage people and have something that other people can enjoy. Whether people agree with it or not is up to them."

Joyon was among the first to congratulate MacArthur after she broke the record.

He said: "I always said that Ellen was a serious customer and she has justified that in the fastest possible time.

"I thought my record could be broken but I never imagined that Ellen would beat it so soon, and so magnificently."

Exclusive interview: Ellen MacArthur

Re-live Ellen MacArthur's celebrations

Watch the moment Ellen MacArthur broke the record

Joyon smashes sailing mark
03 Feb 04 |  Other Sport

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