Ellen's finished

Ellen MacArthur second in the Vendee Globe

Sunday February 11th 2001, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
Ellen 70 miles off the finish yesterdayEllen MacArthur went through the line in Les Sables d'Olonne at 19.36.40 GMT on the 11th February 2000. The wind had dropped right off near the end and she sailed the last miles gently upwind surrounded by the waiting spectator fleet - anxious RIBs packed with her support team almost nudging her towards the finish.

Upwind in light air is the one point of sail in which Kingfisher struggled without the genoa, and it really dragged these last few miles out. But Ellen looked like she was starting to enjoy what was a final fabulous parade, walking round the deck taking photos of everyone taking photos of her - bathed in floodlights from the hovering helicopters. There was an enormous crowd and a real sense of anticipation for this arrival.

And as soon as she crossed the line, the red flares were waved and the fireworks blasted the sky above the French port in celebration. Her support team charged on board, and after (officially) 94 days, four hours, 25 minutes and 40 seconds, Ellen was no longer alone. But with the awesome support she's generated from all around the world, was she ever?

Ellen crossing that line completed one of the most extraordinary solo race performances ever. We've got so used to her competitive ability in this fleet that it's very easy to forget that she's the first women to complete a circumnavigation in under a hundred days, and the youngest competitor to complete the race.

The winner, Michel Desjoyeaux, was there to greet her as well, and the ubiquitous French sound team loaded her up with headphones and microphone to start the staggering array of interviews - before she even touched the dock. Arriving into the harbour just before 20.30 GMT, Ellen faced a pontoon creaking under the weight of the massed ranks of media, but before she started the interviews, here's some of what she had to say from the podium to the crowd.
"Half you imagine in your head what can happen, and the other half no-one could ever imagine what could happen. I think I have learned a lot about myself and the boat, you spend a lot of time thinking, reflecting, dreaming about so many things. I have found great pleasure in this race but at the same time you learn so much."

When she was asked about the winner, Ellen said, "All I can say is Bravo Michel! He sailed a fantastic course. I made several mistakes but you learn a lot!" This was followed by much giggling. And when she was asked about the future, Ellen replied, "Other projects? Yes, the Transat Jacques Vabre and there's a crewed transatlantic race I want to do this July.

"It will be a bit bizarre to have other people on board though! I can't imagine my life without this boat! Without my boat I am nothing. I'm merely the helmsman. My boat and I, well it's a long story and I am so proud of her, she is super ­ bravo Kingfisher!"

"To be here, it's just incredible, my head is about to explode, my nerves too, more than the world could imagine. I am so moved, no one could imagine. Thank you for coming! I knew that the strongest moment would be crossing the line, and the toughest would be half an hour later when I'd have to be parted from my boat."

"Since ten years old I've been dreaming of doing this non-stop circumnavigation, I've read all the books on it. I have just realised a dream come true but I haven't come out of it, I don't think I ever will."

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