Vendee Globe Preview - Ellen MacArthur

Ed Gorman reflects on the rise and rise ...
Four years ago I met Ellen MacArthur at a cafe just off Sloane Square in London. Like everyone on her rapidly expanding list of contacts, I had been phoned and persuaded - by her - that I needed to meet this 19-year-old who's claim to fame was that she had two years previously become the youngest person to sail around Britain single-handedly. Over coffee she talked about her dream of racing an Open 60 around the world which, in the context of Sloane Square and in the context of her limited sailing experience, seemed a distant and unreachable goal. Yet just four years later the girl from Whatstandwell in Derbyshire has become a formidable young woman. Not only is she about to set sail as the youngest ever competitor in the Vendee Globe, but she does so in a state-of-the-art racing machine and as a respected sailor with a major title to her name - the 2000 Europe1 New Man Star single-handed trans-Atlantic race. It is easy to forget that in winning the mono-hull division in that race, MacArthur achieved far more than many others who have spent 10 or 15 years in single-handed racing ever managed. She could retire now. Yet her ultimate goal has always been the Vendee and who's to say that she may not spring another amazing surprise in this, the toughest race of all, which sets off from Les Sables D'Olonne on November 5th. Looking back on her rise and rise, you think of her energy and determination as she fought to get hold of boats and sponsorship, first to compete in the Mini class - she was 17th in the 1997 Mini-Transat in Le Poisson - then in the Route du Rhum the following year, in which she won her class in the Open