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Ellen MacArthur - Success and InfluenceEllen MacArthur - Success and Influence


Ellen MacArthur (1976- )


English yachtswoman (pictured right) and fastest person to sail around the world alone.

 She retired from professional sailing in 2009


Why is she successful and influential?


1. Determination

She confronts every difficulty and danger with a shrug and enormous determination and willpower.

She saved her school dinner money to buy her first boat, an 8ft dinghy called, Threepenny bit (helped by a gift of £300 from her Gran).

When, in her last year at school, glandular fever ended her dreams of becoming a vet, she decided to sail instead.Ellen MacArthur - Success and Influence

For three years she lived in a 10 square metre shed, writing 2,500 sponsorship letters, but only two replied!

Then a British retailing group (Kingfisher), sponsored her to race solo around the world in the Vendée Globe in 2001 (pictured right).


2. Enthusiasm and passion

She loves sailing and gives total effort and concentration to everything she does.

Her favourite expression is à donf (‘go for it’ in English)


3. Ambition

She was driven by the aim of being the world’s best yachtsperson. Becoming rich and famous isn’t important to her.

She is much more interested in pushing herself to the limits and helping and educating other people.

She has set up two charities:


a) Ellen MacArthur Cancer TrustEllen MacArthur - Success and Influence

Giving young people (8-24) the chance to sail to help their cancer treatment.


b) Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Promoting and educating people about the circular economy based on environmental protection and renewable energy. 

She is pictured right finishing her record breaking around the world voyage in 2005.


4. Support and encouragement

Her parents and Gran fully supported her in her dream to become a yachtswoman.

Her gratitude and friendliness makes her an easy person to help.

Her friends had stopped telephoning her when she became famous, because they felt inferior. So she rang them instead!


5. Control over her life

MacArthur is happiest when she is in total control of what she’s doing like when she is sailing solo.

After her first transatlantic voyage, she felt exhilarated:

“I knew I was doing what I’d been born to do”, she said.

She is unhappiest, when her fame:

  • invades her privacy.
  • stops her doing what she wants.

One night she took her family out to a restaurant, spent two hours signing autographs and had to escape to the toilet for 10 minutes for some peace!

She has had to learn to say ‘no’ to people, including the media.

 Ellen MacArthur - Success and Influence

6. Courage

MacArthur (pictured right in 2007) has battled through storms which have injured her and threatened her life many times.

“Courage is...going on when you do not have the energy”, she says.


7. Practical flexibility

She finds practical solutions to new problems very quickly and calmly (like repairing the electricity generator on her record breaking world voyage).


8. Continual learning

Since her childhood she has always been interested in sailing and learning about it from:

  • books. Ellen MacArthur - Success and Influence
  • sailing herself
  • expert teachers (particularly her first teacher, David King).

“Ellen’s a learning machine”, says her business partner, Mark Turner (pictured right).


9. Self-belief and responsibility

She takes full responsibility for her decisions, blaming nobody else for her problems.

She is also confident and positive.

“Stay calm, do all you can, and believe that things will improve”, she says.

Ellen MacArthur - Success and Influence 

10. Treating triumph and disaster the same

Discouragement and failure never get her down for long, and fame hasn’t gone to her head.

She is still the same, nice person, she has always been (pictured right with her parents, courtesy of the BBC).


Key quote on ethics

Courage is...going on when you do not have the energy.


Key quotes on success

Go for it!

Stay calm, do all you can, and believe that things will improve.


Key quote on learning

 I love learning.

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