By By Gail Hennessey
After being on the ocean since November 28, British sailor Ellen MacArthur sailed into the record books on Monday, completing an around-the-world trip in the shortest amount of time. The 27,400 nautical miles around the globe was done solo and nonstop in 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes, and 33 seconds.
Over 1,800 people have reached the summit of Mount Everest, the world's highest peak, and more than 450 people have gone into space. Only one other person, Frenchman Francis Joyon, did what MacArthur has done and she did it 32 hours faster.
MacArthur, 28, of Cowes, Isle of Wight, United Kingdom, has had sailing in her blood since she first sailed with an aunt at the age of 4. By the time she was 8 years old, MacArthur began saving her money to buy her first boat, and accomplished this goal by the age of 13. At the age of 19, MacArthur sailed solo around Great Britain. To date, MacArthur has sailed over 220,000 miles thus far in her career . . . that's about 10 times around the world.
The only contact MacArthur had with the outside world during her months at sea was via her satellite phone and Internet. Her cramped living space aboard the 75-foot, multi-hull sailing boat, called B&Q, was 5 feet by 6 1/2 feet. The boat was equipped with a desalinator, a device to making drinking water from seawater. She packed plenty of freeze-dried foods, such as spaghetti bolognaise, vegetable curry, and organic spuds with spinach and cheese to help maintain the 5,000 calories (twice the daily requirements) needed to provide the fuel to keep MacArthur going.
During the trip, MacArthur needed to be able to make weather predictions and be able to fix the sails, riggings, electronics, computer equipment, diesel engines, and more. She made about 15 sail changes a day, with each taking about 30 to 40 minutes. She could only take short naps with most being only 10 to 20 minutes in length. The longest amount of continuous sleep MacArthur was able to get in the three months at sea was about 2 hours.
MacArthur battled winds up to 65 miles per hour, exhaustion, icebergs, and almost hit a whale! Her route took her through some of the world's most dangerous weather areas, around Cape Horn in South America and around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. A huge wave one night threw MacArthur from her bunk, breaking right over her boat. MacArthur recalls her worst fears were "breaking something or capsizing the boat." She added that it was always stressful thinking about what's going to break next, and twice had to climb the 98-foot mast to make repairs. MacArthur suffered a number of bruises and badly burned her arm on a generator.
MacArthur says that she is "looking forward to having a feeling in my mind where I can switch my brain off more than anything else." She adds, "Racing the clock is as rewarding as racing against others, and there is always the continuous racethe race against yourself."