Kingfisher Update

Ellen MacArthur has just 64 days until the start of her big race - the Vendee Globe

Monday September 4th 2000, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
There's no doubt that Ellen's win in the Europe One New Man STAR has hugely increased her profile, particularly in France, where solo offshore racing has an audience comparable to football. The increased exposure has not only increased the pressure on her for the Vendee, but also the demands on her time.
Ellen's recent schedule has included racing in the invitational Trophee Clairefontaine, competing in a special fleet of catamarans against the likes of Betrand Pace and Dean Barker from the America's Cup; solo skippers Michel Desjoyeaux and Karine Fauconnier; top 60 ft trimaran skipper Franck Cammas; round the world (backwards) record breaker Philippe Monnet; and Women's World Match Racing Champion, Dorte O. Jensen. Raced from inside the confines of the harbour of Cap d'Agde, out along the beaches and back to the marina - the French certainly know how to put on a show for the public. In such exalted company, Ellen managed 5th, and leading lady, at the end of the first day.

The public appearances come in all shapes and sizes. Madforsailing bumped into Ellen at the Optimist Nationals a couple of weeks ago, where she was presenting the prizes. She has also been to Brest, as a guest skipper in a special regatta for 'A Chacun Son Cap'. This is a French charity, of which Ellen is a patron, whose aim is to help children suffering from Leukaemia - by giving children an experience of sailing with other children who have been through this illness, whom they can relate to and share their experiences.

Ellen commented, "It was an incredibly moving experience for me to mix with kids who in the face of it seemed quite normal for their age. Hearing their stories was quite humbling, especially seeing the positive attitudes of so many who were undergoing treatment." Anyone who'd like to make a donation can email info@kingfisherchallenges.com, and they will put you in touch with the charity.

Ellen's Open 60, Kingfisher, has also been host to a lot of sailing trips, with the competition winners from Express and Kingfisher Gift Vouchers, JOG, Sail for Gold, Red Funnel and the Evening Standard. Not to mention the redoubtable Newsround team (does John Craven still do that, or am I showing my age?), which was broadcast on prime time television. There's also a trip to the Cosmo Woman of the Year awards - I guess that's probably not the same as the FHM one?

But at the root of all this activity is ultimately a desperately hard race around the world. And in this maelstrom, Ellen still has to focus on that task. She will be working with weather routeurs Pierre Lasnier and Jean Yves Bernot for a week, while the shore team crack on with the preparation of the boat. Then it's off to Brittany for some final sail trials, before a last solo-sail-shakedown in mid-September, finishing in Les Sables. That's where the boat will undergo its final preparations for the start. While Ellen, hopefully, will get a little time off to chill out, and get her head around the task that she faces.

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