She broke the solo record for sailing round “the worlds”, but now she used dedicating her life to an even greater challenge saving it from the destructive tide of plastic pollution
Trophies from her past exaltations as a competitive yachtswoman are placed discreetly around the 16 th-century building on the Isle of Wight, the base of Dame Ellen MacArthur’soperations today.
On a blackboard in one of the meeting rooms, the targets of a different ardour are spelled out. From uncovering the scale of plastic pollution in the oceans to targeting the textile waste of the fashion industry, MacArthur, who in 2005 has broken the solo record for sailing round the world, is dedicating their own lives to saving it.
Now 41, MacArthur dreamed of has become a sailor aged four when living in landlocked Derbyshire, and saved up her school lunch fund to buy her first rowboat.
The same single-minded drive to reach her objectives is clear in the way she tackles the dream that has consumed her since her early 30 s: to help stop humanity using up the world’s finite resources. Indeed, it is unlikely her new fervour would have emerged without the experience of her first.
” There were lots of subconscious things that happened that I was quite unaware of when I was racing; there used to be things I would write in the log ,” says MacArthur.” I was racing round “the worlds” to try and beat the record, I was completely and utterly fully immersed in the record, I was thinking of nothing outside that … but every now and then I would write something down.
” I recollect quite poignantly writing in the log in the craft;’ What I have got on the craft is everything .’ It actually struck me that you save everything, everything you have, because you know it’s finite, you know there isn’t any more. What you have on that boat is it, your whole world .”
Back on dry land, away from the intensity of racing, MacArthur began to process the reckons she had on the water. Her newfound renown suddenly became an opportunity.
In the winter after the round-the-world race, MacArthur invested two weeks on an island in the Southern Ocean to cinema a programme about the albatross.
” It gave me time to reflect and it built me imagine even more deep about resources ,” she said.” You assure the empty whaling stations down there and you realise that was just a resource- they drew out 175,000 of them … and then there weren’t any to pull out .”
” The basis of my thinking was entirely around resources. It was around the pure fact- stemming from what I had learned on the boat- that resources are finite. The more I learned, I only saw this as the greatest challenge I had ever come across. If we are using these resources in a very linear style we are going to use them up at some stage, and no one knows exactly when .”