Dame Ellen MacArthur – Record Breaking Yachtswoman, Author and Motivational Speaker
Dame Ellen MacArthur’s fascination with sailing started at an early age of just 4, when she began sailing with her aunt and acquired an interest in sailing books.
Whilst at school, Ellen MacArthur started saving her dinner money, to hopefully one day buy a boat – at the age of 13 she purchased her first boat/dinghy Threpenny Bit
At the exceptionally young age of 18, Ellen achieved her RYA Yachtmaster and Instructor’s Ticket.
Ellen’s record breaking career soon followed, when she single-handedly sailed around Britain in her boat Iduna – an achievement which brought her the title of BT/JYA Young Sailor of the Year.
Despite such promise, Ellen found it hard to attract sponsorship to take her career to the next stage. Out of 2,500 letters to potential sponsors, she received just two replies. Eventually, Ellen managed to raise enough money of her own steam to buy a used 21ft Classe Mini.
She refitted the boat and raced it alone across the Atlantic in the 1997 Mini Transat Race, completing the 2,700-mile journey in 33 days.
This achievement brought sponsorship from the giant retail group Kingfisher who funded her move to an Open 50 yacht which she entered in the gruelling 1998 Route Du Rhum Race.
A strong effort from Ellen saw her finish first in her class and fifth overall – a performance which led to her being named BT/JYA Yachtsman of the Year in the UK and Sailing’s Young Hope in France.
Kingfisher were impressed and backed Ellen to the tune of £2 million to enter the 2000/01 Vendee Globe with a brand new Open 60 boat – or Kingfisher as it was more commonly known
Those who had predicted the 5ft slip of a girl would struggle against muscular male opponents were silenced as Ellen finished the challenge ahead of all but one of her male counterparts – making Ellen the fastest female and youngest sailor to race around the world solo, non-stop.
Her achievements led to recognition in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2001, coming 2nd, an incredible achievement considering the awards are usually dominated by more mainstream sports.
In November 2002, she tackled the gruelling Route du Rhum once again – this time finishing first and breaking a number of records on the way. Not only was she the first woman to sail to victory in the race, she also captained the first monohull to cross the line first, smashing the course record in the process.
In 2003 she captained a round-the-world record attempt for a crewed yacht in Kingfisher 2, but had a set-back by a broken mast in the Southern Ocean, 2000 miles from the coast of Australia
In January 2004, her new yacht, B&Q/Castorama was unveiled. This super yacht was specially designed by Nigel Irens and Benoit Cabaret with purpose to help Ellen break solo records. The 75-foot trimaran was built in Australia, with many of the components specifically arranged to take into account MacArthur’s 5’2” height.
In June 2004, Ellen sailed the B&Q/Castorama from Ambrose light station in New York Bay to Lizard Point, Cornwall in 7 days, 3 hours, 49 minutes, 57 seconds. This set a new world record for a transatlantic crossing by women, remarkably beating the previous crewed record as well as the single-handed version.
On 28th November 2004, Ellen began her attempt to break the solo record for sailing non-stop around the world. During her circumnavigation, she set records for the fastest solo voyage to the equator, past the Cape of Good Hope, past Cape Horn and back to the equator again. She crossed the finishing line near the French coast at Ushant at 22:29 UTC on February 7th, 2005 beating the previous record set by French sailor Francis Joyon by 1 day, 8 hours, 35 minutes, 49 seconds. (Francis Joyon recovered the record again in early 2008).
On her return to England on February 8th, 2005, it was announced that she was to be made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of her achievement, becoming, it is believed, the youngest ever recipient of this honour.
Known for her steely ambition, professionalism and unfaltering determination to succeed, Ellen’s story is not just about sailing, but one of human endeavour MacArthur’s approach to life – her innovative thinking, the goals she has set and her continual success overcoming countless challenges, inspires audiences to make their innermost dreams come true!
Dame Ellen MacArthur inspires, motivates, breaks down barriers and encourages the audience to achieve their goals with her stories of living the dream, overcoming incredible difficulties, digging deep into her emotional reserves and finally achieving the impossible.