Ellen to go tri racing

Alain Gautier invites the young Briton to join him on Foncia for the French 60-foot multihull circuit

Friday March 9th 2001, Author: Ed Gorman, Location: United Kingdom
Most people who imagine themselves racing single-handed round-the-world would also imagine themselves taking a very long time off afterwards. But then Ellen MacArthur is certainly not "most people" and she is also certainly not hanging around enjoying the good life.

Having turned down scores of lucrative offers to endorse products and make appearances here and there, the 24-year-old sailing sensation has set herself a new series of challenges, starting with writing her autobiography over the next two months and then it's back to sea.

But not, perhaps, in the way you might expect. While she will be racing her beloved Open 60, Kingfisher, over the coming months, the main focus of the summer season will be the 60ft trimaran, Foncia, which Ellen has been invited to crew on by the French yachtsman Alain Gautier.

The boat is entered in the exciting ORMA Formula 1 circuit which begins with a nine-day non-stop race from Cherbourg to Tarragon in Spain and then continues with a series of five fully-crewed grand prix events, each spread over four days and set in sight of land and spectators. The Foncia campaign culminates in the 4,500-mile two-handed Transat Jacques Vabre from Le Havre to Brazil which sets sail on 4 November.

Commenting on this jump into multihulls for the first time in her short career, Ellen said she was surprised and flattered to have been asked by Gautier - one of the four designers of Kingfisher - to join his team. "I certainly have a lot to learn, but that is going to be a great new challenge for me," she said in Paris at the launch of the programme where Kingfisher is currently moored on the Seine.

"Racing these fast and powerful multihulls is another new experience - sailing is a fascinating sport in this respect - there are so many things to learn," she added. "I cannot think of a better way to enter this circuit than with Alain who played a key role in the success of my Vendee Globe campaign. I will sail as crew during the year to develop my skills in what is a new discipline for me."

The trimaran is not going to eclipse Kingfisher altogether. During the coming summer Ellen and a crew will race her at two inshore grand prix events at Fecamp in France at the end of next month and at Quiberon in mid-June. The team is also planning to take part in Sir Chay Blyth's EDS Atlantic Challenge - the six-stage fully crewed Open 60 grand prix which sets off from St Malo at the end of June and then stops at Hamburg, Portsmouth, Baltimore, Boston and back to St Malo at the end of August.

Mark Turner, Ellen's manager, says she "should be on board for the majority of the EDS Challenge" though the official briefing from Kingfisher describes the team's entry in this event as "provisional." Ellen has already sailed 40,000 miles in Kingfisher over the last 12 months, but is ready for more. "I'm very happy to have the chance to race Kingfisher during the year as well - with a crew - pushing her to the limits, which I know she'll enjoy," she said.

The boat is to be co-skippered throughout the summer by the Australian former Whitbread, America's Cup and Mini-Transat sailor, Nick Moloney, who is hoping to enter the Vendee himself in four year's time. It goes without saying that Ellen's successful tie-up with Kingfisher, has been extended to June next year. Sir Geoffrey Mulcahy, chief executive of the company, said Kingfisher had been very pleased with what he called the "extraordinary external and internal benefits" that the partnership with Ellen had produced.

"Because Ellen is so young and such a high achiever, we have encouraged her to explore all of the options that come her way, so that we could work together to give her the best opportunity to pursue her brilliant career. Ellen's performance has already been extraordinary. But like all of us at Kingfisher, she is not content to stand still. She is eager to keep on pushing hard and take on another new challenge and we are very pleased to be supporting her in that," he added.

Reflecting on the last four weeks, Ellen said her mind has still been very much at sea, amid the whirlwind that has greeted her on land. "The support and interest from around the world in my story has surprised me, but at the same time, it has been a great reward to see how, as a team, we've managed to share the power of a race like the Vendee Globe with so many people. Right now, I'm keen to find a little peace, work on my book, and get back to sea in May."

Provisional sailing programme for Ellen MacArthur


March Greet Vendée Globe skipper and former race teacher of Ellen Yves Parlier on his arrival in Les Sables d'Olonne, France. Technical debriefing session from the race with the design and shore team.
April Work on the book - due to be published in October.
29 April - 5 May Kingfisher's first Grand Prix Regatta in Fecamp, France.
13 - 21 May Crew onboard Foncia in the Challenge Mondial, Cherbourg to Tarragon, Spain. The 8-day non-stop race takes competitors via the Azores Islands, down the coast of Portugal, through the Gibraltar straits in to the Med.
5 - 10 June Crew onboard Foncia in Cap d'Agde, south of France, Multihull Grand Prix.
12 - 17 June Skipper Kingfisher in Quiberon, NW France in the second Grand Prix Regatta for monohulls.
19 - 24 June Crew onboard Foncia in Italy, Multihull Grand Prix.
27 June-25 Aug Kingfisher plans compete in the EDS Atlantic Challenge Race; St Malo - Hamburg - Portsmouth - Baltimore - Boston - St Malo. Ellen should be onboard for a majority of the race
28 Aug - 2 Sep Crew onboard Foncia in the Multihull Grand Prix at Fecamp, France
11 - 16 Sep Crew onboard Foncia Multihull Grand Prix, Belgium.
Sep - Oct Training on Foncia for Transat Jacques Vabre
4 Nov Co-skipper with Alain Gautier on Foncia, in the Transat Jacques Vabre.


May compete onboard Kingfisher in the Challenge Mondial Assistance from Cherbourg to the Mediterranean, if confirmed as an event.

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