On this day in 2005: Dame Ellen MacArthur sets new round-world sailing record


Yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacArthur smashed the record for the fastest single-handed circumnavigation of the globe on this day in 2005.

MacArthur, then 28, completed her 27,354-mile odyssey in 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes and 33 seconds.

With an average speed on the water of 15.9 knots, the Briton beat the previous record set by Frenchman Francis Joyon by more than a day.

It was an astounding achievement given that many in sailing had predicted Joyon’s mark, set only in 2004, would last many years. Joyon had taken more than 20 days off the previous record in completing his journey in 72 days, 22 hours, 54 minutes and 22 seconds.

MacArthur, from Cowes on the Isle of Wight, set out on November 28, 2004 in her 75ft trimaran called B&Q/Castorama. She crossed the finish line off Ushant, France, at 10.25pm on February 7.

During an incident-packed voyage she narrowly avoided colliding with a whale, suffered burns to her arm and was battered and bruised after climbing the 90ft mast to carry out repairs.

She also had to battle gales and icebergs in the Southern Ocean, deal with light winds in the Atlantic and cope with a host of other technical problems.

Despite that, she managed to stay ahead of Joyon’s time for the vast majority of her adventure. She also collected another five records on the way, beating Joyon’s time to the Equator, the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin in Australia, Cape Horn and back to the Equator.

“I am elated, I am absolutely drained, it has been a very tough trip,” MacArthur said. “When I crossed the line I felt like collapsing on the floor and just falling asleep. I was absolutely over the moon.”

The yachtswoman was congratulated by the Queen and Prime Minister Tony Blair following her achievement.

The Queen said: “Your progress has been followed by many people in Britain and throughout the world, who have been impressed by your courage, skill and stamina.”

She described it as a “remarkable and historic achievement”.

MacArthur, originally from Derbyshire, was given a Damehood soon after completing her quest.

Her record stood for almost three years before being reclaimed by Joyon. He took another 14 days off the time, finishing in 57 days, 13 hours and 34 minutes.

The record is currently held by another Frenchman, Francois Gabart, who completed the journey in 42 days, 16 hours, 40 minutes and 35 seconds in December 2017.

MacArthur, who still holds the record for the fastest woman to sail solo around the world, retired in 2010 and set up the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which campaigns for a circular economy to eliminate waste and pollution

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