Once more into the fray

Ellen MacArthur on her new tri and her prospects in the Transat Jacques Vabre
Life is as relentless as ever for Ellen MacArthur. When we caught up with Britain's most famous sailor and singlehander on the P&O Ferry between Portsmouth and Le Havre, despite being seated with her entourage in the Premier Class lounge, there was a steady stream of calls upon her to sign autographs and, as is normal these days prior to the start of a major race, there was a French TV film crew in tow to record her every move. All of this Ellen seemed to take in her stride. After her continued success racing offshore singlehanded in 2002 in the Route du Rhum, 2003 has not been the greatest of years for Ellen, starting with the dismasting of her maxi-cat Kingfisher II mid-way through an attempt on the Jules Verne Trophy record. This has been followed by a series of disasters sailing with Alain Gautier on board the French trimaran Foncia. "This year we have had big problems," Ellen admits. "We capsized in the first race of the year after two days in the Challenge Mondial [Assistance] and then we went straight into three months of boatyard, building a new mast. Set off, did the delivery up to Fecamps [for the trimaran grand prix] and then in the first race that we did with the boat with the new mast in, the top of the mast stripped off. So for us it has been a disastrous year - we haven’t managed to achieve anything other than the qualifier and the delivery up to here, without any major problems." At the Fecamps Grand Prix the top six inches of mast snapped off, but they were able to salvage the rig and subsequently scarf on a new head to the carbon fibre wing. As a result MacArthur is loath to theorise about