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Recalling bravery on the sea - Dame Ellen MacArthur

On this day in 2005, a British yachtswoman broke the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe. Ellen Patricia MacArthur began her attempt on November 28, 2004. She set records for the fastest solo sail to the equator, scudded past the Cape of Good Hope, past Cape Horn and back to the equator again, and crossed the finishing line near the French coast at Ushant at 2229 UTC on February 7, 2005, beating the previous record by 1 day, 8 hours, 35 minutes, 49 seconds. The French called her "la navigatrice Britannique".

Born in 1976 in Derbyshire, Ellen began to sail as a girl after reading Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons, and saved her school dinner money to buy her first boat. Small (just 5’2”) but stalwart, she first became known when she came second in the 2001 Vendée Globe solo round-the-world sailing race in her boat the Kingfisher. She was just twenty-four. In 2003 she captained a crew in a round-the-world race, but was defeated by a broken mast in the Southern Ocean.

In 2005, not yet thirty, she sailed alone to victory in the 75-foot (23-metre) trimaran B&Q/Castorama, which her sponsors built in Australia. “It’s always been about a team,” Ellen says.

What she faced alone for 71 days and 27,354 nautical miles on the high seas, her ordeals, despair, and triumph, she has described in vivid emails and in several books.

Both Sir Francis Drake and Sir Francis Chichester were knighted after their respective circumnavigations in 1580 and 1967. MacArthur was also knighted when she arrived home, being made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. She is the Patron of the Nancy Blackett Trust which owns and operates Ransome's yacht, Nancy Blackett, to inspire children to sail.

Team Ellen is here.

Thanks to Howard of Beautiful Britain's On This Day for reminding us of this anniversary.