People and boats: Ellen MacArthur and B&Q trimaran.

People and boats: Ellen MacArthur and B&Q trimaran.

The story of a woman who set an absolute record for sailing around the world without entering ports.
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They were made for each other: a short blue-eyed brunette and a 75-foot white beauty. Perhaps that's why together they succeeded in the impossible: setting an absolute record for circumnavigating the world without entering the ports, which is still unbeaten by singles to this day. Except they didn't meet right away...

«It was so amazing - suddenly to feel the sea in my blood, its salty water in my veins»- so already famous Ellen will remember the feeling of her first sailing, in which she was taken by her aunt.

On that sunny summer day, on a small Cabaret, barely four passengers, a cheerful company of seven, not counting dogs, gathered together. There were only two adults, an aunt herself and a 60-year-old grandmother. Nevertheless, a short sea voyage was more than successful - it radically changed the whole future life of a four-year-old girl from absolutely overland, «middle» British county of Derbyshire.

The sea is calling.

Since then, Ellen has literally dreamt of ocean voyages, looking forward to her annual trip to the south coast. What's more, she's determined to get her own boat and has been saving on school lunches since she was eight years old, allowing herself just a few beans and mashed potatoes (with free gravy!). But all the other pocket money, penny a penny, the girl carefully placed in the cherished box, carefully circling the next cell in the notebook, when it was possible to collect another pound sterling.

The young sailor's habit of poor rationing later came in handy during her solo voyages, and her cherished dream became a reality as soon as she managed to accumulate 100 pounds. Ellen deservedly named her first boat (the«dinghy») Threpn'y Bit, and during her first (still imaginary) voyages she set sail in the garden - the road to the sea was still a long one.

After a couple of years, an adult girl has clearly outgrown his «Trehpensovik», and he was replaced by a 15-foot keel boat Kestrel. Taking part in the competition for young yachtsmen further strengthened Ellen's character and her desire to be first in everything and always has only strengthened. In those same years, she sang and reread all the books about boats and sea voyages she could get.

However, the hobby of sailing could have remained a common hobby: as the matriculation exams approached, the girl should have thought about choosing a «serious» profession. Unbelievable, but the fact is, she chose to... veterinary science. Obviously, the long stay on the farm, surrounded by numerous pets, was affected. However, it is possible that its role played a congenital habit to strive for the impossible: to enter the veterinary faculty required high graduation points.

It would seem that the sea is over forever, but in the matter intervened fate itself: shortly before the end of classes at the school Ellen seriously caught a cold and was forced to spend whole days in bed. Her active nature could not come to terms with such an aimless waste of time - especially since on one of the TV channels she managed to find a cycle of interesting programs dedicated to sailing. So even the disease benefited - without waiting for the final exams, Ellen, in her own words, «spread her wings» and flew towards her dream.

All for the first time: solo swimming, a true friend and victory.

Ellen MacArthur's 17th birthday was greeted in Port Goule by the already solid owner of the 21-foot boat Iduna (type Coribbee). Not only did she enjoy sailing the full-flowing Hammer, often out to sea, but she also taught at a local yacht club. She received her Yachting Captain's Diploma at the age of 18, for which she was awarded the honorary title of Best Young Sailor of 1995. Ellen decided in her own way to celebrate this award and... set sail alone around the British Isles.

This first real voyage took 4.5 months - almost twice as long as the subsequent round-the-world voyages. During this time the girl gained even more confidence in her abilities, saw how wide the world around her really was and felt ready for something more.

The premonition did not fail: a year later Ellen MacArthur came third in the transatlantic race from Quebec Canada to St Malo in France. Her next goal is to compete in the prestigious Mini-Transat 1997, where only boats up to 6.5 metres long are allowed. While preparing for this voyage, Miss MacArthur finally met a true soul mate, or rather a true friend.

His name was Mark Turner. He worked as a manager for a shipping company and, like Ellen, was passionate about the sea and sails. The young people decided to unite their efforts, because apart from the desire and enthusiasm for ocean racing three other things are needed: money, money and money again! The boat, its maintenance, equipment and the mandatory contribution to the competitions. This is how the company was born with the eloquent name Offshore Challenges, to which Ellen and Mark owe their continued success.

Mini-Transat's results were not very encouraging, with MacArthur's boat only reaching the finish line at 17th. Difficult times had come for the newborn company: its president and CEO were forced to huddle in a wagon in the backyards of the yard, spending no more than £10 (approx $12) a week on food. Money for the next regatta - Route du Rhum (Saint-Malo - Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe) - literally fell from the sky: Ellen received an unexpected inheritance from her grandmother. The right boat was rented at the last minute, but the participation in this single race brought the 22-year-old a real triumph - first place with a significant margin!

On Mighty Fish's back«.»

But even this resounding success only spurred Ellen on. On a turn there was an attack of Everest of sailing - race Vendée Globe on the well-known route of clippers of XIX century which most part passes on «roaring» 40th latitudes of Southern hemisphere. However, offering the idea of holding these competitions over 24 thousand nautical miles long, French yachtsman Philippe Jeantot specified that with climbing to the highest peak of the planet it is possible to compare round-the-world races of singles with calls in ports, and to do the same in non-stop mode is like conquering Everest without oxygen.

But to participate in the competition again needed money (entry fee of about 12 thousand euros) and, most importantly, a new ocean-going yacht of Open 60 class. In short, Offshore Challenges needed a strong sponsor and, thanks to the joint efforts of Ellen and Mark, it was found quickly enough. The largest UK retailer, Kingfisher Corporation, was so fascinated by the young yachtswoman's achievements that she decided to invest £2 million in her future.

So, another cherished dream of a girl from the most overland county of England came true: now she herself participated in the development of the project of her future boat, which was named after the company sponsoring it. By the way, the launch of Kingfisher'a (which the athlete herself and her friends affectionately called Mighty Fish) Ellen MacArthur marked another victory, this time in the transatlantic single race Europe 1 New Man STAR (from Plymouth to Newport). As if in a mockery of the exact name of the competition, a priori involving only men, a woman came first to the finish line... And not five months later, as in November 2000, Ellen left French Le Sables d'Olon in her first round-the-world voyage - now at the helm of her own «Mighty Fish».

That year, the Vendée Globe was launched with 24 boats driven by famous single skippers. Only 15 of them made it to the finish line. By the way, as a result of equipment malfunctions, our famous compatriot Fyodor Konyukhov (who started the yacht «at the Modern University of Humanities») and a 38-year-old Frenchwoman Catherine Chabot, who was walking on the Whirlpool boat, had to leave the race. Ellen MacArthur was the only woman (and at the same time the youngest participator) on the race track. She came... the second, Michel Dejouayo, who was only 1 day and two days ahead of Roland Jourdan, who took the third place!

This time Ellen spent 94 days, 2 hours and 25 minutes at sea, and all these three months she slept for more than 5-5.5 hours a day, and even then sporadically. A special «distributed sleep»program developed by the Italian scientist Dr. Claudio Stampi helped to withstand this tension. The essence of it was that the athlete taught herself to fall asleep for 30-40 minutes every 2-3 hours. In this case, her condition was constantly under the control of the so-called «sleep bracelet» - a special device that monitors all phases of sleep / waking and transmitted data on Ellen's health through a communication satellite.

The race winner, the famous Michelle Dejouayo, called the 24-year-old Briton «a real miracle», and admitted that she had a good chance to become an absolute winner. Ellen herself modestly noticed that her success owes much to luck, the support of her shore team and ... the ability of her boat, which turned out to be simply incredible!

And that was no exaggeration: just a year later, during the next race of the Route du Rhum, «Mighty Fish» not only came first of the 17 ocean-going yachts in the Open 60 class, but was also ahead of two of the three multihulls (ORMA 60 class) that were also racing. The result of Ellen MacArthur - 13 days, 13 hours, 31 minutes and 47 seconds - was a new record for the Route du Rhum for keel boats. Only «Professor» Michel Déjouayeu, who needed a Géant trimaran, was able to overcome this track faster (by only 8 hours).

So, Kingfisher once again confirmed his extraordinary qualities, but who knows - maybe it was the new success of Dejouayo that pushed Ellen to think that she needs a new, even faster boat...

At Moby Dick's company.

After a successful performance at the Vendée Globe and a convincing victory at Route du Rhum 2002, Ellen MacArthur set herself another prestigious goal: firstly, to win the famous Jules Verne Cup by continuously going around the world in less than 80 days, and secondly, to set the speed record in a round-the-world solo voyage. Ellen had no idea that in the near future she would be able to combine both of these achievements in a single voyage...

However, when planning her future voyages, her thoughts were increasingly turned to multihull boats - catamarans and trimarans - capable of reaching speeds inaccessible to keel boats. She was fascinated by the feeling of flying over the waves at high enough stability (until, of course, the speed became too high and the boat risked just tumbling in the air). Dual-hulled boats are known to be capable of higher speeds in transoceanic racing, but trimarans are more stable and therefore safer, which is particularly important for a single yachtsman.

The result of long thinking and compromises has been the 75-foot B&Q trimaran project that Ellen has entrusted to BoatSpeed Australia.

«B&Q»Trimaran Specifications
Designers: Nigel Irens, Benoit CabaretMaterials
: Airex/Carbone/Kevlar/Diversion
:8.3 tonsLength:
22.86 m (75 ft) Width

16.28 m


4.4 mHighty
mast: 27.6

for acute courses: 259 m2 for full
courses: 373 m2 Engine
: Yanmar 4JH3-TESA

300 lCarrying
speed: 13 knots

Trimaran bodies (originally nicknamed the record «conqueror)»are made of epoxy-coated carbon fiber, which provides increased strength and rigidity with minimal weight of the entire structure.

The mast (specially shortened by 1.5 feet compared to the basic design) has a wing profile and the dimensions of all the elements of her rigging and running rigging are specially designed with Ellen's physical capabilities in mind. The lightweight sails are made of aramid fibre combined with a highly flexible plastic, and their handling is automated to the maximum extent possible, again taking into account the loads optimal for a single crew member.

In strict compliance with ergonomic requirements, winches and other mechanisms were placed, and a cockpit and large cabin in the central hull were designed. From the captain's seat in its upper part, it is extremely convenient to control all navigation devices, to communicate and, if necessary, to operate the trimaran manually. Most of the time the vessel is securely kept on course by the helmsman, which gives Ellen the opportunity to maneuver her sails as the wind changes, lay the course, cook and of course rest on Dr. Stumpy's already tried and tested system.

In addition to the satellite navigation system, it is possible to continuously exchange information with two meteorological centers - Commanders Weather (Connecticut, USA) and Meeano Schreader (Germany). Their experts almost continuously communicate with the traveler via the Internet, constantly processing models of changes in the hydrometeorological situation along the transition route and helping to choose the right course.

The B&Q was completed in January 2004 and its launch (a good sign!) almost coincided with the christening ceremony of the Queen Mary 2 liner. The trimaran soon got a new name - Castorama (after one of the companies sponsoring the Kingfisher PLC group), but Ellen herself affectionately calls it «Moby Dick». Under this name is the Melville White Whale boat and will go down in the history of ocean voyages.

You can do that...

June 2004. Ellen and her Moby Dick make their first joint attempt to set a speed record in solo sailing. First on the transatlantic route from New York to British Cape Lizard. Behind the scenery is a journey of more than 14,000 miles off the coast of Australia and a painful choice: to go further with the team or alone.

Finally, the decision is made: the sailors who helped with the ferry stay in the Falkland Islands, while Ellen hurries to the U.S. shores in time for the next race. Until recently, she called solo sailing on the trimaran «more than madness», but now she felt full confidence in her abilities. The anticipation of future risk was perhaps the most decisive: before the birth of «B&Q,» Ellen had to experience what it was like to have a gust of wind turn a boat like this in seconds!

So, ahead of the already familiar North Atlantic, the track of almost 3000 miles long and the record of the Frenchman Laurent Bouagnier to beat - 7 days, 2 hours, 34 minutes and 42 seconds. Ellen and her White Keith are trying their best, but... ...but they lose an hour and 15 minutes. A hard blow to ego, bitter memories of mistakes, hard work on them and... in November of the same year, Moby Dick goes on a new voyage, now around the world!

This time in the scope is a fresh (February 2004) single round-the-world record: it took only 72 days, 22 hours, 54 minutes and 22 seconds for Francis Joyon, whom Ellen, in her later memories, jealously calls «a Frenchman». The stakes (and risks) of the game with the Ocean are unusually high, but if successful, the 28-year-old Englishwoman will be able not only to set the speed record of a single sailing around the world, but also to become the first woman to overtake the ball alone!

The start of the journey could be called a success: from the start of Cape Wessan almost to the equator «Moby Dick» walked at an average speed of more than 20 knots, and near the Canary Islands for some time literally ran on the waves at 38 knots. But in the first days of the journey his captain had to sleep no more than 1.5-2 hours a day. And then trouble began...

First, Ellen had to replace the damaged steering wheel alone. Then the main diesel generator and desalination unit failed one after the other and a leak in the fresh water tank was found.

On the way to the equator the air temperature in the cabin reached 45-48°, the condensate collected in the hold had to be drunk, but every day it brought the faithful «B&Q» to the record.

On the twentieth day, the trimaran successfully passed the Cape of Good Hope, with «more than 16 hours to spare» compared with the result of Francis Joyon on the same stretch of the route, when approaching the southern tip of Australia, this advantage has already exceeded a full day.

The Christmas night of 2004 brought an unexpected surprise: at 26-knot speed the trimaran ran into something right in the middle of the ocean. Fortunately, the boat itself was not damaged, which is not to say about Ellen herself, who received strong bruises. At the same time, she had to fix the junk freshener again, so there was almost no time to rest.

Nevertheless, the new year 2005 brought a nice gift: already on the 34th day of the voyage «Moby Dick» overcame half of the whole route, 58 (!) hours ahead of the record time. To achieve this, Ellen went almost 300 miles south, so she had to diverge from the icebergs just about half a mile away on the way to Cape Horn. The wind kept getting stronger, sometimes reaching 80 knots, a blizzard raged around, 12 to 15 meters of waves exploded, and the boat was literally walking away from a storm ready to absorb or tear it apart.

As Ellen herself later recalled: «It was a struggle for life. Eight to ten times a day to change the sails, watch the wind and instantly make the right decisions - no wonder that sometimes it was possible to sleep no more than half an hour a day. But after passing Cape Horn, «B&Q Castorama» was 98 hours ahead of the record time!

However, happiness (as well as the weather at sea) is very variable: the South Atlantic met the brave racer with weak winds, so that on the 58th day of the trip she already lost to Francis Juillon for about 10 hours. It was only two days later that the weather had mercy on the rider and the increased tailwind again allowed the British rider to regain some of her lost edge.

And here came the moment of triumph: at 22-29 GMT on February 22, 2005, «Moby Dick» and his brave captain crossed the provisional finish line off Wessan Island. The voyage of 27,354 nautical miles around the world was completed in just 71 days, 14 hours 18 minutes and 33 seconds - the result of Francis Joyon was surpassed by more than a day!

Ellen MacArthur: the victory could not have been more complete

«I always believed I could break this record, but I didn't think I could do it at the first attempt»," said Ellen, stepping on solid ground, and admitted that what she wanted most right now was to curl up and sleep, sleep, sleep....

Instead of an afterword.

Deserved fame fell on Ellen MacArthur with a real ninth shaft. Queen Elizabeth II bestowed upon her the title of Lady Commander of the British Empire, with knightly honours on a former simple girl from a farm in Derbyshire. A little later, the French President awarded the Legion of Honour to a cavalier lady of the British Empire.

The International Sailing Association put her name on the Hall of Fame. A mountain peak on Earth and a distant asteroid were named after her.

In the world of sailing for her there are no unconquered peaks and already in 2009 Ellen MacArthur announced her departure from professional sport and her wish to concentrate her efforts on solving the problems of global economy.

About all experiences, hopes, dreams and the smallest details of record ocean voyages, she told in detail in the book The «Full Circle: My Life and Travels», which was published in 2010 and significantly complements her first autobiographical story «Conquering the World in» 2002.

Only three years later, in January 2008, Ellen MacArthur's long-time rival Francis Gouillon once again improved his world solo record by going around the world in 57 days, 13 hours and 54 minutes. Today, this record belongs to François Gabar, who completed the single round-the-world trip in an astounding 42 days, 16 hours and 40 minutes.

But Ellen MacArthur's record for single women remains unsurpassed to this day. But (who knows?) wouldn't it pull her back into the sea if she were to be beaten in the coming years?

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