Ellen MacArthur: Travel Trailblazers!


I am writing this article whilst sitting at a deck looking at my daughter out on the Irish Sea with my brother. As a result, I would like to introduce you to one of my personal heroes & adventurers, someone who has inspired me to push my limits when sailing and in the way, I view the usage of commodities and the economy – Ellen MacArthur. She also has some excellent taste in books, as her early favourites also happened to be mine!


Name: Dame Ellen MacArthur DBE

Born: 8 July 1976

Why is she featured as one of our top trailblazing explorers: She is a highly successful solo-handed long-distance yachts person who in 2001 when she was only 24 years old came second in the Vendeé Globe race, one of the hardest offshore races where she spent 94 days alone at sea. She went on to win the Route de Rhum from France to the Caribbean in 2002. In 2004 onboard the 75ft trimaran B&Q she became the fastest person to circumnavigate the globe single-handed on a sail-powered boat. She took only 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes, 33 seconds later to sail over 26,000 miles.


What do we know about her life? 

Ellen was born in Whatstandwell in Derbyshire, where she lived with her teacher parents, and brother. She gained her early interest in sailing from reading the Arthur Ransom Books Swallows and Amazons – she is now the patron of the Nancy Blackett trust. Her first experience of sailing was on a boat owned by her aunt Thea MacArthur on the east coast of England. Ellen saved her school dinner money for three years to buy her first boat, an eight-foot dinghy, which she named Threp’ny Bit even though decimalisation had taken place before she was born. 

MacArthur attended Wirksworth County Infants and Junior Schools and the Anthony Gell School and also worked at a sailing school in Hull

After retiring from professional sailing, she has gone on to be an inspirational leader across many fields. From setting up and running the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust, to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation which aims to help build a circular economy. This is one of the biggest ideas in sustainable living, and arguably the only one which will effectively make a difference. 


©Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Cool Facts: 

  • Patron of The Big Bang Fair – the largest celebration of science, technology, engineering, and maths for young people in the UK.
  • Was given the Legion d’Honneur from French President, Nicolas Sarkozy
  • Made a Dame by the Queen in 2005
  • Ellen is the founder of the charity, the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust which was set up in 2003. It works with hospitals across the UK to take young people aged between 8-24 sailing to help them regain their confidence after treatment for cancer & leukemia.
  • Asteroid 20043 Ellen MacArthur is named after her. 


You might also like these articles on the Bébé Voyage blog:

Travel Trailblazers: Mae Jemison


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