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15 February 2001, 11:15 am
Mac Arthur Returns To A Hero's Welcome
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Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher) crossed the finish line of the Vendée Globe in second position at 2036 hrs and 40 seconds. The 24 yr old British skipper becomes the first woman to achieve a solo circumnavigation in less than 100 days. She has spent 94 da...
Greeted by a larger crowd than assembled to meet race winner, Michel Desjoyeaux, the 24 year old British woman has become a national hero in France awarded the ultimate public accolade - recognition by just the single name "Ellen".

Describing the event finish as, "the most amazing experience in my life seeing so many people here to see me. I thought that there must be someone standing behind me. Then I thought that they must all be here for the boat as she sailed round the world, I'm just the pilot".

Clearly overwhelmed by her reception, Ellen added, "I don't know what to think, I'm still blown away by the whole situation. A question that everyone's asked during the race is: "What would you like or what do you miss the most?" I don't miss having anything except my friends, family and team, but they all understand why I am out here".

Commenting on the race itself, Ellen said "Unfortunately I was way behind Mich coming out of the Saint Helene high pressure system but was keen to keep my position in the West. Coming to the Equator I spent a lot of time mending my gennaker, I spent 18 hours with it laid out on deck, I was fairly careful with the sail as I wanted a big sail in the Doldrums. The wind instruments broke on two consecutive nights so I had to change the anemometer at the top of the mast twice. Sailing with a fragile gennaker now, I was pretty tired. The first anemometer I fixed was faulty so I had to go up the rig a second time. That was the moment I was most scared. I was at the top of the rig, there was this big squall, lots of rain but I didn't mind that. The wind died off and the boat gybed seven times while I was up the mast. With a boat that has a canted keel, if the main had been on the wrong side and the wind had come back the boat would have fallen over on top of me. So I was completely exhausted and sailed further to the East. I needed to sleep. I ended up due South of Mich, well that's life".

Despite being at sea for over three months, Mac Arthur is keen to be back in action as soon as possible. "If the race was going to start tomorrow you can bet your bottom dollar that I'd be on that start line again! It was the hardest race ever but it's very difficult to get off the boat. I've got nothing in my mind that says "Ellen, don't do the Vendée Globe again!."

Ellen was also philosophical about her public following. "I'd like to believe that the reason why people followed my race, is that if you have a dream you can make it happen. Sitting here alone makes it look like I've done this on my own but it's not just me, it's the whole team. 95% of the result has been thanks to them, they've helped me through the bad days, they've prepared the best boat ever. I never imagined there'd be as many people as are here tonight. It's not about sailing, people are interested in the story, that you can make it happen. This is a sailing race and sailing is my life but in a way it's just to say that if you want to do something you can. I just chose to do it in a boat. I never had a change of mind, always kept the same view, you never know what's going to happen. My main aim was to finish and any one that crosses the line is a winner. I never thought I wouldn't be able to finish the race. In the face of adversity you find solutions, you put all your time and energy into finding the solution. There was a moment that I feared for my life, that I wasn't sure I could get out of what I'd got into. But I had no option but to sort the problem, and it's afterwards when you are quite shocked, when it hits you the hardest".

Ellen also marked to contribution others had made to her supposedly single handed effort. "This is the first time I've really worked with a team to prepare this project. Without Mark Turner there's no way I'd be here. I've had to learn that. And there's a lot of progress to be made from that. When I was out there, I always sailed to the maximum as much as I could, how the boat likes to be sailed. I'm elated to be second, it says a lot for the team and preparation, which is critical in a race like this.

Finally, as the reality of being on land set in Ellen's thought turned to the future both near and far. "Now I just want to change out of these damp clothes and spend time with friends and family. I'll be racing Kingfisher and other boats in the future I think. It's early days. It's a big dream to get this race under my belt and I need to let it sink in. I'm dying to get back on the water soon".

Out at sea the battle continues for the 14 boats still racing.

Ranking polled at 06.00 UTC 12/2/01

Boat Speed DTF DTL
1 PRB (Desjoyeaux) 0 0 0
2 Kingfisher (MacArthur) 0 0 0
3 SILL Matines La Potagère (Jourdain) 12.8 297 0
4 Active Wear (Thiercelin) 7.4 1069 772
5 Union Bancaire Privee (Wavre) 9.18 1469 1172
Philippe Jeantot
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