Sailing: MacArthur lands pounds 2m deal

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THE 22-YEAR-OLD Ellen MacArthur yesterday announced a dream come true with the biggest-ever backing for a British single-handed yachtsman. Over pounds 2m from the Kingfisher Group, who own B&Q and Woolworth, is being put into her bid to win the Vendee Globe Race starting in November 2000.

The 55ft class winner in last year's Route du Rhum will have a new 60ft yacht built for the non-stop round the world event. Safety as well as speed will be the priorities for a design team which will be led by the Welshman Rob Humphreys.

It includes Merfyn Owen as project director and France's previous race winner, Alain Gauthier, along with the Italian technical materials expert Giovanni Belgrano. The build contract has been put out to tender, with yards in France and New Zealand front runners to meet a target launch date of February 2000.

Isabelle Authissier, who has twice been rescued from her upturned yacht in single-handed races, has called for new rules to increase safety levels in the sport.

In her Vendee build-up, MacArthur, the British yachtsman of the year, who comes from Whatstandwell, Derbyshire, will include small boat training with the Olympian Paul Brotherton in the Laser 4000, the Fastnet race with Yvan Bourgnon on a 60ft trimaran, and partnering the Frenchman Yves Parlier in the Jacques Vabre two-handed transAtlantic race this November.