February 7, 2005: Ellen MacArthur breaks round-the world sailing record

The 28-year-old British yachtswoman survived an encounter with a whale to complete the 27,000-mile journey more than a day quicker than anyone before her.

British yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur finished her single-handed circumnavigation of the globe in world record time on this day in 2005.

The 28-year old completed the 27,000 mile voyage in 71 days, 14 hours and 18 minutes, beating Francis Joyon’s record by well over a day.

Joyon had broken the previous record by an astonishing 20 days in 2004, and the consensus in the world of sailing had been that his mark of 72 days, 22 hours and 54 minutes would remain in the record books for some time.


But despite sailing a smaller and lighter boat and having to cope with extreme weather conditions, technical problems and a near-miss with a whale, MacArthur broke records over five different marked distances on the way to taking the Frenchman’s record.

MacArthur first came to prominence in 2001 when she took part in the Vendée Globe, a single-handed round-the-world race for single-hulled boats, when only 24 years old. She was only the second Briton to complete the race.


Finishing second in that event garnered the Derbyshire-born sailor an MBE, and saw her voted runner-up to David Beckham in the BBC Sport Personality of the Year awards.

The day after breaking the solo round-the-world record, it was announced that MacArthur was to be made a Dame of the British Empire.  In doing so, she became the youngest-ever recipient of the honour.