Not the lesbian American TV star, but our own girl from Derbyshire Ed Gorman gets up to speed with the latest from la petite Anglais

Monday November 5th 2001, Author: Ed Gorman, Location: United Kingdom

Some things never change. Now at the venerable age of 25, Ellen MacArthur is as enthusiastic as ever about life and about racing sailing boats. Speaking from Le Havre where the biggest fleet of 60ft trimarans ever assembled was awaiting the start of the 5,300-mile Transat Jacques Vabre, Ellen sounded more like an overawed spectator than a competitor.

"To see all these boats is just something else," she said. "Fourteen Open 60 multihulls all in a line - it's unreal." Another thing she noticed is the board on the dockside showing the rankings in the FICO-Lacoste offshore world championships which she currently leads, thanks to one win or podium place after another in her Open 60 Kingfisher and in the Open 60 trimaran, Foncia-Kingfisher. She still has to kick herself about it though.

"It's not a big thing, but you look at it and think 'good grief'. I used to look at it when I did my first Route du Rhum and I noticed I'd actually got above Lawrie Smith and I remember thinking 'wow look at that...you know Jeez.' (She laughs). Now you look at it and you're at the top of it and you think 'Shit...what are we doing? I'm just Ellen.'" (More laughter).

Just to get things started and to check the base point, I asked her what her mission in sailing is right now, bearing in mind that an awful lot has been going on in her life since she got back from the Vendee in the early spring.

"My mission?" she replied, "my overall objective is to enlarge or broaden my experience and to be better at what I do." Again no change there then. Yes, it can happen. Fame and not a little fortune can come to some sports stars and they can remain just as they ever were, if not even more modest. (But then Ellen has always been exceptional).

Now recovered from the exhaustion of the Vendee and post-race sponsor commitments, she has also got over the post-Vendee blues which swept through her small team like a dose of flu. Ellen is back to herself; enthusiastic, eager and totally committed and it looks like she and Alain Gautier are going to prove a real handful in the TJV. They may be in a slightly older and slower boat in the 60ft tri, Foncia-Kingfisher, than some of their rivals but they have a good track record in the tough inshore grand-prix and, as Ellen says, they complement each other very well.

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