I saw on BBC news online today that she was about to break the record, then switched on BBC News at lunchtime (on BBC America) to see that she had finished, more than a day inside the record. And then, reading around the sites, I found this article on the Guardian’s website. Briefly, it tries to unpick why the British just don’t like Ellen MacArthur. First of all, I wasn’t aware that we didn’t – maybe she isn’t as popular as David Beckham, but you could hardly claim that sailing enjoys the support or popularity of football, so that’s probably only to be expected. No-one in the article seems to dispute that she excels at her chosen pursuit – that she is remarkable. So I was bemused by some comments that she ‘moaned and whinged’ too often.
She has set up a website to follow the trip – presumably for some of the reasons that the BBC has been covering the trip, i.e. because people are interested, and because it makes a good day-to-day story to be able to follow what’s going on. I think that the fact we have the opportunity to find out what she is up to in such an immediate way is a great benefit of technology. I don’t think that because she is honest about her feelings, it diminishes her efforts. The article also seems to imply that Robin Knox-Johnston’s similar effort in 1969 was more heroic, more adventurous and better in some way. The two trips were different in many ways. Robin Knox-Johnston was the first to navigate solo and non-stop, so it was a journey made just to see if it could be done. Ellen MacArthur was racing against a record that was set only last year, by someone who knocked 20 days of the previous record. What is wrong with taking advantage of the latest technologies, the fastest boat, GPS systems and sponsorship to pay for all of this?
We seem to be very quick to dismiss achievements made with the assistance of technology, but every sportsman or woman takes advantage of the best technology available to them, whether that is in the form of running shoes, new training regimes or GPS systems. As long as that technology is legal and open to everyone, there is nothing wrong with that, and it does nothing to diminish the achievement of an individual who sets a challenging target and goes on to success.