`I'm fried. I got to the stage where I nearly pulled out ...'

Ellen MacArthur tells the story of her record-breaking solo journey round the world, a remarkable tale of endurance, fear, exhaustion and, ultimately, exhilaration as she battled against the sea and the elements
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The Independent Online
Day 1, Monday, 28 November 2004

I feel relief to be over the line, relief to be going. I was so nervous and very emotional even just seeing the guys in the helicopter above this morning... It's going to be a tough one this, I can feel it.

Day 3, Tuesday, 30 November 2004

Right now we are on top of a low pressure system between the Spanish and Portuguese coast. It's pretty windy and the wind is going to increase over the next half hour. It's been a pretty painful night, quite light winds, trying to get towards the low. We've been trying to get between the [areas of] low and the high pressure but, unfortunately, we haven't been able to manage to do that as quickly as we wanted.

Day 4, Wednesday, 1 December 2004

Right now our boat speed is just eight knots and I'm heading for the Canary Islands. Can't leave the boat for five minutes without something happening - hope it's going to stabilise soon... Dry mouth ... not eating properly yet ... not totally got my head in to this ... going to try and fix the leak on the fresh water tank to make myself feel happier. Problem is that with the wind shifting all the time, I don't want to get stuck down below, as I keep having to rush on deck to trim the sheets.

Day 8, Sunday, 5 December 2004

The Doldrums. It's unbelievably hot, and it's good to be on a multihull because you're moving quickly and you've got a nice breeze over the deck but it's very hot and humid. The cabin temperature is around 32C inside and 29C at night - it takes a lot of your energy away.

Day 9, Monday, 6 December 2004

The sky is full of huge great big black clouds and there is no moon at the moment which is even worse. I must have changed sails about six or seven times during the night and goodness knows how many times during the day yesterday. My body is OK but I'm losing a lot of fluids. I'm trying to drink a huge amount because it's just so warm on board, particularly when I'm charging the batteries. The cabin turns into even more of an oven - more like a sauna! I've got lots of salt sores all over my hands and my arms, which appear when you get sweaty for a long period of time. There's no escape from it, there's nowhere to go. All the water around you is salty, you're salty, so your sweat is salty!

Day 10, Tuesday, 7 December 2005

Sometimes it just hits you. I was asleep in the cuddy (between the cockpit and the cabin), and woke up and I know when I wake up that if I feel a bit funny, that's not the time to push. You have to either get more rest, or do something to take your mind off the enormity of it. I'm very pleased with the Equator time, it's fantastic to always be ahead of the record but to cross the Equator over 14 hours ahead of Francis was brilliant. We know it's still very early days and although it's a good feeling to be ahead and cruising south with good breeze, it's also a moment where you know it's just one of the milestones and a lot could change between now and later, there's no doubt about it.

Day 12, Thursday, 9 December 2004

Still heading south in the South Atlantic and we're approaching a group of islands called the islands of Trinidad. It's getting a little bit less hot which is fantastic - now at 16 degrees south so it's not quite as tropical as it was a few days ago. Didn't have a great night really - conditions were up and down a bit and I was very worried about what's going to happen in the south because we're going to have an absolute shocker. The closer you get, the more you realise it's going to be pretty horrible and we're going to have to plunge south pretty soon - we're going to be down at 40 degrees south before we know it, and it's not the best zone for icebergs.

Day 16, Monday, 13 December 2004

I got some sleep this morning and some this afternoon, but I need more, I need a lot more. I'm absolutely fried, last night was the absolute pits. I nearly had to pull out. It was that close, I got to the stage where I couldn't breathe in the boat, I couldn't charge the batteries, I couldn't make any water. I was absolutely at my wit's end. The main thing is the fumes; the fumes from the exhaust are now not coming into the boat, because they were the biggest issue as I couldn't go anywhere in the boat without asphyxiating myself.

Day 17, Tuesday, 14 December 2004

The motto for today is "Sleep more, suffer less". I tried to engrave this on my brain last night, and try with all my energy to sleep -easier said than done sometimes, but, hey, we have to try. The sky is grey but I like that ... I almost prefer it to the beating sun of the equator. The trials and tribulations of the past few days seem miles away. Things are under control, and we're heading south!

Day 18, Wednesday, 15 December 2004

Things are getting a little bit chilly and the water temperature has dropped down to about 15C. The sky is very grey and the sun has disappeared - we're in our first Southern Ocean depression. We're heading down there for a long time so mentally things are changing - and physically things are obviously changing too as it gets colder.

Day 19, Thursday, 16 December 2004

I feel different. I feel much better than I have been over the past few weeks, I feel more positive. A little bit more cooler in the temperature ... I probably feel more comfortable in the Southern Ocean than the Equator when it was so hot. I'm sure that's going to change and I'm going to look forward to getting that heater on as we go further south.

Day 20, Friday, 17 December 2004

We've got reasonable boat speed this morning and we've got good breeze. I'm sailing along with blue skies which makes a huge difference after what we were sailing in yesterday in the front of the depression. There's quite a few petrels and albatrosses around. And we've just in the last hour dropped below 40 south, so we're now officially in the Southern Ocean! The Indian Ocean is renowned for its depressions which fly down off Africa. You have to be extra vigilant to see what's coming and, obviously, try not to get stuck in something which is particularly venomous.

Day 21, Saturday, 18 December 2004

It's like sailing over mountains. It's like driving an all-terrain vehicle very fast over mountains. Sometimes you are coasting down the hills and other times, you're fighting up the hills and that's just what it's like. Except that the mountains are moving - you're always sliding along with the mountains. It is absolutely spectacular and the seas really are big. Day 21 today and I've finished my Week Three food bag. It will be Week Four next which is quite cool, and when I finish Week Five we'll be half way round.

Day 22, Sunday, 19 December 2004

Right now, we're north-west of Marion Island, we're about 250 miles north of the Antarctic convergence and we're heading just north of east at the moment. We're ahead of Francis by nearly 24 hours after three weeks and it's good to have a lead on him.

Day 24, Tuesday, 21 December 2004

The last 36 hours even in the storm were just mind-blowing! To be in such huge seas and to see the power of nature - to be on an ocean that isn't flat in any way, it's a mountain range! There is no horizon because the sea is going up and down so much. It was an incredible experience and one that I wouldn't change for the world despite the fact that it was very windy and slightly frightening at times - it was just unbelievable. There is a storm coming which will hit us on Christmas Day.

Day 25, Wednesday, 22 December 2004

I was a bit upset not to see the Crozet Islands yesterday and it doesn't look like I'm going to get to see the Kerguluen Islands either. But you're very aware of the islands as there are birds there and there is a lot more wildlife because of them. It's all pretty special and it's great to be down here and feeling those islands around us.

Day 26, Thursday, 23 December 2004

I am a bit shaken up after last night - it was a bit disturbed and it was pretty hard to get some sleep and conditions were a bit all over the place. It was more of a shock knowing that you had hit something [she describes it as a "living object"] but the boat seems OK. I was very, very lucky. There is very little time to even think about the fact that's its nearly Christmas Day and the fact that I'll be missing my family. So perhaps concentrating on the boat and the tactics is the best thing.

MacArthur spent the Christmas period battling huge storms and icebergs in the Southern Ocean. She heard about the Asian tsunami on the radio but was unaffected by any aftershocks

Day 36, Sunday, 2 January 2005

Just during daytime here, about four hours before sunset, I came across two icebergs both to the north of me. The first was kind of triangular shape, quite small, the second was significantly bigger and had several peaks to it. It's pretty hard to judge how big they are but I guess they were the size of ships - the second, the size of a large container ship. Obviously, the bergs are moving from the south towards the north, that's why they are all here. That movement has obviously continued - these bergs were pretty old, pretty melted and they were literally sitting in a small corridor of colder water which was moving south-north. I have crossed the dateline so I am now having 2 January again!

Day 40, Thursday, 6 January 2005

Yesterday was the worst day, with massive squalls, the same wind that was not predictable. I sat there reading people's e-mailed encouragement, and quite honestly cried.

Day 41, Friday, 7 January 2005

The support from you all writing in is just mind-blowing. I mean mind- blowing - I am lost for words. I refresh the page each time I log on for the weather and read as many as I can. You are unbelievable.

Day 44, Monday, 10 January 2005

Right now, as we approach Cape Horn I have been able to get a little bit of rest but it's still been incredibly stressful. I think the hardest thing for me is, because I push myself so hard, sailing the boat when she feels like she's not going at 100 per cent. In the night we had some squalls, then we had some lighter conditions, and I hesitated longer than I probably would have about putting the sail up just because I was concerned about the squall and that's a very, very stressful thing for me. If the boat's not sailing how she wants to be sailed, I really, really struggle to rest.

Day 46, Wednesday, 12 January 2005

We passed Cape Horn after 7 o'clock today and we've got horrendous conditions. Just before sunset yesterday evening I had to take the mainsail down. We've had up to 50 knots - actually, 52 knots during the night. Again, we've had 52 knots this morning and the seas are absolutely monstrous. This morning as it became light, I realised these are certainly some of the biggest seas I've been in. I'm looking out of the window and the sea to our port side is awash with white water. There is a huge wave just broken next to us and there must be a 200sq ft area of sea which is just foaming white water and then the next rough wave rolls up behind and away we go on another crazy.

Day 52, Tuesday, 18 January 2005

The waves are right on the nose of the boat and we're getting thrown around quite violently so it's not much fun at the moment. It will be nice to punch through to the other side of this and actually start making some decent progress to the north, albeit slow.

Day 56, Saturday, 22 January 2005

Right now, I feel achy, very, very tired and a bit relieved that we've got some light winds just for a while to have a stable boat so I can recover a little bit ... I just, generally, feel absolutely empty - it has been a real struggle from Cape Horn to here - every day has given us new challenges. The bad news is that the next few days will be terrible - I've got three days of basically no wind now so we will be going very, very slowly. We will almost certainly lose the lead. Last night I spent at least two hours up on deck because there were ships going past and I didn't want to go to sleep with the ships around.

Day 58, Monday, 24 January 2005

I'm hanging in there, bearing in mind that we'll be back in two weeks and if we're not back in two weeks, it doesn't matter anyway. So I've got to hang in there for two more weeks, that's the way I'm thinking and I'm trying to look after myself the best I can. I am exceptionally tired, I'm pretty exhausted and I'm fairly bruised. I've been up the mast again [to do a rig check], just this morning, so I'm feeling pretty battered again. The record is definitely within our sights - I'm not going to let go of that until the last second hand ticks over, that's for sure. We've been working on this project for two years, I've now been at sea for more than 50 days and now is not the time that I am going to throw my hands up in the air and give up, no way. We're level with Francis - we're not three days or five days behind him and we still have a chance.

Day 59, Tuesday, 25 January 2005

The South Atlantic is amazing, really, you couldn't wish for a more beautiful place to be sailing in. We've got eight to 10 knots of breeze, a boat that is slipping along at nine knots. We've got a beautiful moon - the most beautiful moon I have ever seen. It's like perfection, but you struggle to appreciate it. You don't get to live moments like this very often but the timing is not ideal and that is what makes it difficult. And you worry all the time - will we get stuck in the Doldrums for 36 hours? W hat does the northern hemisphere hold for us? All these questions: so much rattles around in your head 24 hours a day.

Day 66, Tuesday 1 February 2005

I'm looking forward to having a feeling in my mind where I can switch my brain off more than anything else.

Day 70, Saturday, 5 February 2005

The hardest part is that I know there is little resilience left. I am running so close to empty that I believe it is only the energy from others that is keeping me going. To put it briefly this trip has taken pretty much ALL I have, every last drop and ounce. I chose to do this and I really don't need any sympathy from anyone.

Day 72, Monday, 7 February 2005

The last 24 hours have been absolutely horrendous. I'm very much looking forward to getting in, to seeing all the team, my friends and family and all the supporters. I can't wait to get in. It's been a very, very long trip and an exceptionally hard one.

www.teamellen.com

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