On this day in 2005: Dame Ellen MacArthur breaks round-the-world record

Andy Hampson, PA
·2-min read

Dame Ellen MacArthur smashed the record for the fastest single-handed circumnavigation of the world on this day in 2005.

MacArthur, 28, completed her 27,354-mile odyssey in 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes and 33 seconds.

With an average speed on the water of 15.9 knots, she beat the previous record set by Frenchman Francis Joyon by more than a day.

MacArthur's epic voyage was incident-packed
MacArthur’s epic voyage was incident-packed (PA Archive)

It was an astounding achievement given that many in sailing had predicted Joyon’s mark, set in just 2004, would last many years. Joyon had taken more than 20 days off the previous record in completing his journey in 72 days, 22 hours, 54 minutes and 22 seconds.

MacArthur, from Cowes on the Isle of Wight, set out on November 28, 2004 in her 75ft trimaran called B&Q/Castorama. She crossed the finish line off Ushant, France, at 10.25pm on February 7, 2005.

During an incident-packed voyage she narrowly avoided colliding with a whale, suffered burns to her arm and was battered and bruised after climbing the 90ft mast to carry out repairs. She also had to battle gales and icebergs in the southern ocean, deal with light winds in the Atlantic and cope with a host of other technical problems.

Despite that she managed to stay ahead of Joyon’s time for the vast majority of her adventure. She also collected another five records on the way, beating Joyon’s time to the Equator, the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin in Australia, Cape Horn and back to the Equator.

MacArthur's achievement was recognised with a damehood
MacArthur’s achievement was recognised with a damehood (PA Archive)

“I am elated, I am absolutely drained, it has been a very tough trip,” MacArthur said. “When I crossed the line I felt like collapsing on the floor and just falling asleep. I was absolutely over the moon.”

MacArthur, originally from Derbyshire, was made a Dame of the British Empire soon after her completing her quest.

Her record stood for almost three years before being reclaimed by Joyon. He took another 14 days off the time, finishing in 57 days, 13 hours and 34 minutes.