Sailing: MacArthur prepares to take on the world

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The Independent Online
SHE HAS been visited by France's first lady, Mme Chirac, feted by vast crowds milling round St Malo, and pampered by a support team of six for the first time in her sporting career. It has been a hectic week for the 22-year old Ellen MacArthur.

But yesterday afternoon she left all the hubbub ashore to settle into a 4,000-mile sprint across the Atlantic to Guadeloupe, on her own, in yet another step up the ladder in a charmed career.

"I'm really going to go for it," she said, bubbling with enthusiasm. "It's going to be hard work, but I knew that. This is a perfect stepping stone for the big one next year, the non-stop singlehanded round the world Vendee Globe."

She started well, leading her class into a rough, tough first night of big westerly winds.

The perfect stepping stone is the Route du Rhum and the steed for MacArthur, a former Young Sailor of the Year and one of the youngest to battle solo across the Atlantic in a 21-foot overgrown dinghy, is none other than Pete Goss's 50ft Vendee boat.

That is the one in which the Cornishman rescued Raphael Dinelli, for which Mme Chirac's husband President Jacques Chirac awarded him the Legion d'Honneur.

Now renamed Kingfisher, her main rival will be a Frenchman, Victor Jean- Noel. But MacArthur, who has only sailed her new boat for a few days, is unfazed.