The British sailor, Ellen MacArthur completed her solo voyage around the world in 71 days 14 hours 18 minutes and 33 seconds, beating by 33 hours the record set in 2004 by France’s Francis Joyon.
After grappling with storms, sleep deprivation and on the brink of physical exhaustion following the 27,348-mile journey in the carbon fibre trimaran, the 28 year old MacArthur crossed the finish line between Ushant in France and Lizard Point in Cornwall at 2229 GMT on Monday. She beat the previous time set in February last year by Frenchman Francis Joyon by 1 day 8 hours 35 minutes and 49 seconds to become only the second person in history to sail a trimaran (three-hulled vessel) around the globe, non-stop, single-handedly.
An exhausted Ellen MacArthur brought her 75 foot trimaran B&Q across the finish line off the Ushant peninsula on the North-Western tip of France and was met with intense media interest from across the globe. Her arrival into Falmouth Harbour in Cornwall the following morning was also greeted by the news that the Queen was to award her the honour of Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Speaking immediately after crossing the line back to her race headquarters in Falmouth by satellite phone that has been her lifeline to the outside world, an emotional MacArthur said “”It’s been a very tough trip and the final stages up the South Atlantic were extremely hard both mentally and physically. It’s all been one big draining event and I have a mixture of emotions going on in my mind right now. It’s lovely to be back and to see faces again and I’m looking forward to seeing my family again onshore.””
MacArthur said she was “”overawed”” by her achievement and the welcome she received by thousands of fans, and felt “”incredibly privileged”” to have been awarded her honour.
The Queen was one of the first to congratulate MacArhur: “”Since you set sail last November, your progress has been followed by many people in Britain and throughout the world, who have been impressed by your courage, skill and stamina. I send you my warmest congratulations on your remarkable and historic achievement””.
Immediately after Ellen finished, the previous record-holder, Francis Joyon congratulated the new holder, “”I always said that Ellen was a serious contender, and I can see today that she has decided to prove me right. The mere fact that she was able to sail around the world non-stop was quite an exploit, but to smash the record at the same time fully deserves my warmest congratulations. Ellen achieved this result through her concentrated efforts. Her team worked hard and backed her before and during her circumnavigation, and she did not ever lose her resolve. Being well supported is one thing, but when you find yourself in the middle of the southern lows in this type of boat, you really feel very alone.””
Amazingly, some criticism has been voiced over the differences of MacArthur’s adventure with that of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who was the first person to sail solo and non-stop around the world in 1969. But Knox-Johnston himself said: “”A year ago a very tough and determined Frenchman put the record out of sight, or so we thought. We all thought it would take 10 years to beat that. The record was up there and she stretched it that little bit further. It is an amazing achievement.””
MacArthur’s project director Mark Turner defended the record by adding that “”Ellen grew up with Robin and the famous names from sailing. They were her heroes and she would be the first person to acknowledge that what they achieved was quite extraordinary and can never be repeated. But technology moves on, like in all sports, and you can only compete in the time you live. Right now, things are very different. The boats are high-technology.””
The 75ft trimaran was designed by Nigel Irens, the top multihull designer in Britain, and built at the Boatspeed yard in Gosford, north of Sydney. One Australian source pointed out that the boat was built with more than 30,000 man hours over a seven-month period that began in May 2003. The whole 4million (GBP) project was funded by the Kingfisher group using their DIY company, B&Q, as the main sponsor.
The three-hulled structure was made entirely of carbon fibre to withstand the extreme conditions and loads she experienced across the world’s oceans, which according to Offshore Challenges, the company set up to oversee Ellen’s projects and affairs, suffered very little damage, testament to the technology used in construction.
On the strength of the trimaran, MacArthur herself commented that “”She’s a fighter, She’s a boat that will not let you down, She has been unbelievably rugged and strong..””.
The boat and onboard equipment, was built around MacArthurs small frame.
The 75ft boat with a 100ft high wing-sectioned mast was built with the intention of being the fastest boat that MacArthur could handle. Although it is 15ft shorter than Francois Joyon’s craft that set the record last year, MacArthur’s trimaran was significantly lighter.
The area where most of the weight savings were made was in the hulls and decks which were made of epoxy-bonded carbon fibre for maximum strength and stiffness, but with minimum weight. The sails are mostly made of aramid fibres sandwiched-bonded between sheets of Mylar plastic which make for extremely light sails but with the added benefits of improved durability.
CompoTech was just one company from the industry that contributed towards the success of the venture, supplying the steering rods which linked the three rudders on the trimaran.
Five carbon fibre connecting tubes, 50mm in diameter and 2850mm in length, and two carbon fibre torsion tubes, 44.4mm in diameter and 1500mm in length, were used in B&Q / Castorama’s steering equipment to provide a reliable and robust link between the rudders.
CompoTech’s carbon fibre tubes, produced using their Zero degree axial fibre laying process, provided a lightweight solution, but more importantly, were strong enough to withstand the gruelling conditions to which the boat was subjected over the 71 days that she was at sea.
CompoTech engineered the tubes to meet the exact requirements of the design specification, and delivered them to a UK based company, who fitted them into the steering equipment. The total steering solution was then shipped to the principal boatbuilder in New Zealand.
“We are very pleased that Ellen has achieved this fantastic record,” said Rory Carter, from CompoTech’s UK office, “Our composite tubes have been used in many different applications over the past ten years, but the marine industry is where we started and where we still aim much of our technical and development efforts. Our technology and manufacturing process is unique and we are delighted to see it used so successfully on one of the highest performing boats of our time.””
There’s no suggestion that any changes will be made to the trimaran following its latest success, but MacArthur was adamant that it would not be too long before she was back in the boat. Lamenting on the “special relationship” that she had formed with the trimaran, she said that further challenges lay around the corner.
“It’s not over, they are lots of other records out there. I won’t be setting off round the world in the short term because I’ve just got back from that, but they’ll be other records like the Transatlantic record we missed out on last year and maybe round Britain and Ireland solo. I’m not keen to sever my connections with the boat so that’s definitely something we’ll be aiming for.””
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