British Woman Breaks Sailing Records

She may have finished second to sailing rivals the French, but Britain's Ellen MacArthur, who completed the Vendee Globe round-the-world race Sunday night, was hailed at home as the queen of the seas.

The 24-year-old sailed into the history books by becoming the youngest person and the fastest woman ever to sail solo around the world.

The 25,000-nautical-mile odyssey took her 94 days four hours 25 minutes and 40 seconds, one day and 28 minutes behind French winner Michel Desjoyeaux. Both he and MacArthur broke the old record.

Briton Robin Knox-Johnston, winner of the round-the-world race in 1968-69, said: "This has been an incredible performance by this bright young lady, a very tough and determined young lady."

He described to Sky Television climbing the mast at sea, which MacArthur was forced to do several times for repairs: "It's a horrifying experience. You can be swinging 20 feet either way. It takes a huge amount of nervous energy out of you. You come down simply spent," he said.

‘Captain Fantastic’

British news bulletins led on Sunday evening with MacArthur passing the finish line aboard Kingfisher at the French port of Les Sables d'Olonne. She was greeted by a massive crowd, including her parents and brother.

Weekend newspapers hailed her achievement, all the more remarkable because MacArthur is from Derbyshire, a landlocked county in northern England.

"Captain Fantastic" was how the Sunday Times put it in a preview of her hero's welcome.

MacArthur, just 1.58 meters (5 feet 2 inches) tall, had to battle the gales of the Southern Ocean, dodge icebergs, climb the mast several times and sew up torn sails.

She kept contact with the outside world via candid e-mail messages which helped propel her to stardom.

Knox-Johnston said such communications were a mixed blessing for long-distance sailors.

"In some ways I think I was better off, because I would rather not be bothered by people when I'm at sea," he said of his 312-day voyage over 30 years ago.

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