Dame Ellen MacArthur first hit the headlines in 2001 when she raced single-handedly non-stop around the world in the Vendée Globe when only 24 years old. After 94 days at sea, Ellen returned to a different life, she had come second in one of the hardest races in offshore sailing and the response was massive. Prior to her Vendée success, she won the solo transatlantic race from the UK to the USA and went on to win the Route du Rhum from France to the Caribbean in 2002.
After this successful run in the monohull Open 60 class, Ellen turned her attention to the multihull circuit leading to her departure from Falmouth, UK in 2004 on board the 75ft trimaran B&Q… she returned 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes, 33 seconds later, having sailed over 26,000 miles to become the fastest person to circumnavigate the globe single-handed. She was knighted by the Queen in 2005 and has received the Legion d’Honneur from French President, Nicolas Sarkozy.
She is a founder of the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust, a charity, set up in 2003, which works with hospitals across the UK to take young people aged between 8-24 sailing, helping them regain their confidence after treatment for cancer & leukaemia.
Ellen’s current and unexpected direction was a result of her competitions at sea, which gave her a very real understanding of what it means to rely on a finite supply of resources, as on the boat food, water and fuel were inescapably linked to success or failure. Five years ago this inspired a new journey, spending time with local and national governments, scientists and working across key industry sectors to understand how on land too we rely on finite resources in the form of materials, energy and water.
It was through this realisation that Ellen made the difficult decision to end her professional racing career and focus on a still greater challenge. Ellen’s search for solutions to these challenges led her to discover a framework for re-design and the idea of shifting from our ultimately limited linear to economy to one that is regenerative by nature.
In September 2010 she launched the Ellen MacArthur Foundation with the goal of “accelerating the transition to a regenerative, circular economy”. The Foundation works in the three areas of business, education and communication. Not surprisingly – this is the most exciting project that Ellen has worked on to date, and, like with her sailing, she is totally immersed in it!
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