Ellen's first press conference

Straight off the boat, this is what the girl of the moment had to say

Monday February 12th 2001, Author: Ellen Macarthur, Location: United Kingdom
Ellen MacArthur finishes the Vendee"I've just had a chat with Tony Blair, well he wanted to talk to me! It's incredible that I've been followed by someone like him. He really knew about the race, he knew what had happened to Yves and about the icebergs. I think he was quite surprised at the number of people here. We must have chatted for ten or 15 minutes. It was a long chat and he was genuinely enthusiastic. He finished by saying 'you'll have to come and see me soon' so I said 'yep, see you later!' at the end.

"It was 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.

"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.

"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.

"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!' Could another circumnavigation ever be the same? But then when I sailed round Britain on Iduna I had the same feeling coming into the locks at Hull marina as I did today ­ just a few more people here!

"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.

"My daily routine is normal to me, although it's a bit strange for everyone else. The first thing I did was to go to the toilet, it's the first time in three months that I've been to a toilet that flushes! My whole world has been 60 ft long and about the same high, I've been up the mast pretty often! I'm seeing different colours and lights now, where for three months I've seen nothing but beautiful ocean and a beautiful boat. That intrigues and inspires people. You can get an image of it in your mind of what it's like, you don't have to be a sailor to understand that. 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. You could set off the first day in first but a million things could change in the course of a race like this. It so happened that I came second and I'm thrilled to bits. 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.

"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!

"It hasn't even sunk in yet. 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. It's swings and round-a-bouts, as Mich could have got a bigger lead than 640 miles but he got stuck in the Saint Helen system. I'm still the juvenile of the race.

"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!"

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