Who is this Dame Ellen MacArthur? In 2001 'she raced single-handedly non-stop around the world in the Vend̩e Globe when only 24 years old... second in one of the hardest races in offshore sailing... Prior to her Vend̩e success, she won the solo transatlantic race from the UK to the USA and went on to win the Route du Rhum from France to the Caribbean in 2002.'
She departed 'from Falmouth, UK in 2004 on board the 75ft trimaran B&Q... and returned 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes, 33 seconds later, having sailed over 26,000 miles to become the fastest person to circumnavigate the globe single-handed.
She was knighted by the Queen in 2005 and has received the Legion d'Honneur from French President, Nicolas Sarkozy.' (from the Ellen MacArthur Official Website bio)
Topics Covered: Ellen begins with family life at 4 years old and moves on in great detail from there. Every early sailing step she ever made takes up the first half of the book.
Getting into her prep for the Vend̩e Globe and her description of actually sailing it lasts for most of the rest of the tome.
Her win in the Route du Rhum from France to the Caribbean in 2002 is tacked on in just a few pages at the end.
The Best Part: MacArthur's drive to get sailing from pretty much day one in her life is very clear. Her dedication and indeed determination over decades is amazing.
Her life is told with great honesty and poignancy, covering not just her many successes, but also her failures (for example, her failure to get into vet school). It gives a bright picture of an outstanding young woman driven towards her goals and it was great to see her achieve them.
Best part about this book? I was on the edge of my seat every time she described having to climb the mast under terrifying Antarctic conditions and was vastly relieved every time she made it safely back down to the deck.
I had no clue what conditions in extreme solo racing were really like when I picked up this book. I am sure that reading about it doesn't come close to actually living it - but it certainly paints a vivid picture.
And I learned that while I admire such daring exploits - when I head off on my own long term sailing adventures, I will certainly be heading straight for warmer climes!
Wishes: Hmm. She repeatedly gives thanks to the support teams that made her achievements possible. But in a vague and general way. I would have liked to hear about more specific support team incidents (builders, mechanics etc) and how these fed into the final outcome.
One began to get the uneasy feeling that these thank yous were perfunctory and added in as an afterthought. This is more true at the beginning of the book and less true at the end. Somehow Clare Francis' descriptions of this aspect of racing in Come Hell or High Water seemed a lot more personal and believable.
Conclusion: Inspirational. Glad I bought it. I'll pass it on - it's good to spread inspiration around.