Monday, Apr. 18, 2005

Ellen MacArthur

She recently became the top solo sailor in the world. Notice that I didn't say top "female" solo sailor. Ellen MacArthur claimed the distinction on Feb. 7 with her extraordinary 71 days 14 hr. 18 min. 33 sec. solo round-the-world record. As recently as three years ago, her time would also have beaten the record for fully crewed sailboats.

MacArthur, 28, burst into prominence in the sailing world in 2000 with a win in the monohull division of an important solo transatlantic race. Insiders took note of a fine new competitor. There is no denying the caliber of one's skills when sailing alone. Less than a year later, she captured the public imagination with an extraordinary second-place performance in the Vendee Globe solo round-the-world race. Here was someone who was younger than the other competitors in a sport in which experience is key, who was petite in a sport that emphasizes brawniness for the heavy work of changing sails, and who was female. Watching her interviews during the VendŽe race, I counted three times when she cried amid the extreme workload and pressure—unmistakably a woman in every respect.

Now she is a heady example for young females, demonstrating that it is possible to learn and excel at a difficult and very physical sport. Her success was based not on innate talent but on hard work and aspiration. MacArthur is an inspiration for women throughout the world to pursue their dreams of success against the odds.

Fossett is a record-setting balloonist, sailor and aviator

From the Archive
The America's Cup: Dennis Conner is racing to come back