She broke the solo record for sailing round the world, but now she is dedicating their own lives to an even greater challenge saving it from the destructive tide of plastic pollution
Trophies from her past glories 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 passion are spelled out. From uncovering the scale of plastic pollution in the oceans to targeting the textile trash of the fashion industry, MacArthur, who in 2005 broke the solo record for sailing round the world, is dedicating her life to saving it.
Now 41, MacArthur dreamed of being 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 attain her aims is clear in the way she tackles the dream that has consumed her since her early 30 s: to assistance stop humanity using up the world’s finite resources. Indeed, it is unlikely her new passion 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 were things I would write in the log ,” says MacArthur.” I was racing round the world 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 remember quite poignantly writing in the log in the barge;’ What I have got on the boat is everything .’ It genuinely 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 barge is it, your whole world .”
Back on dry land, away from the intensity of racing, MacArthur began to process the supposes she had on the water. Her newfound fame suddenly became an opportunity.
In the winter after the round-the-world race, MacArthur spent two weeks on an island in the Southern Ocean to movie a programme about the albatross.
” It gave me time to reflect and it induced me think even more deeply about resources ,” she said.” You watch the empty whaling stations down there and you realise that was just a resource- they pulled out 175,000 of them … and then there weren’t any to pull out .”
” The basis of my reasoning was entirely around resources. It was around the pure fact- stemming from what I had learned on the barge- that resources are finite. The more I learned, I just saw this as the greatest challenge I had ever come across. If we are using these resources in a very linear manner we are going to use them up at some stage, and no one knows exactly when .”
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