Young Success

Ellen MacArthur knew she wanted to sail from the age of 4 — by the time she turned 30, she was a record breaker in the sport

Ellen MacArthur completed the 27,000 mile journey and broke Francis Joyon's solo round the world record with a new time of 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes and 33 seconds.  
Peter Macdiarmid | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Ellen MacArthur completed the 27,000 mile journey and broke Francis Joyon's solo round the world record with a new time of 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes and 33 seconds.  

Not many can say that they've single-handedly sailed around the world. One individual who can however, is Ellen MacArthur, who managed to do it before turning 30 — twice.

For the record breaking sailor-turned-advocate for the circular economy, MacArthur's love for the sport dates back to when she was just four years of age, when she first got the opportunity to go sailing.

"I'll never forget that feeling as a kid of setting foot on a boat for the first time. To see this little world — and it was a small boat — but it had little bunks, a little cabin, a kitchen."

"It kind of struck me that this boat had everything we needed to take us anywhere in the world. And as a child, that opened up everything," MacArthur told CNBC's Tania Bryer, explaining how it felt like the "greatest sense of freedom."

Yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur arrives in England after her record breaking finish in the Vendee Globe race.  
Chris Ison - PA Images | PA Images | Getty Images
Yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur arrives in England after her record breaking finish in the Vendee Globe race.  

"I knew then that I wanted to sail around the world. As a kid, that was the goal. I had no idea how to get there – growing up in the countryside, it wasn't the most obvious career path – but I knew that was what I wanted to do at some stage."

This episode ignited a passion within MacArthur, who acquired knowledge and saved up for years to pursue a career in sailing.

Speaking on the "CNBC Conversation," the world-renowned retired sailor recalls how she would save her dinner money every day, so that she could save up to buy the right equipment.

"You make every step in your life one that gets you one step closer to that goal. And that step could be so small," MacArthur said, explaining how she would have mashed potato and baked beans every day for eight years, to save cash.

By reaching certain financial goals and asking technical questions about sailing, this helped MacArthur feel as though she was getting closer to her ambitions.

"I think having a goal, so young, it just gives you focus. And it gives you a direction," she said, adding that there are many parallels between her goal of becoming a sailor, and that of the work she does at her eponymous foundation, which aims to promote a circular economy, whereby economic activity builds and rebuilds the overall health of the system.

"When you know where you're going, you can actually get there — even if it seems impossible. I think that drive from being a kid and wanting to sail around the world, and somehow making that happen — maybe it teaches you that the impossible could be possible and aiming high is not necessarily such a crazy thing to do."

And it seems that MacArthur's drive to become a sailor went beyond her expectations. At the age of 24, she started to garner media attention after participating in the Vendee Globe, a single-handed non-stop yacht race that goes around the world. She came in second place.

"Having a goal, so young, it just gives you focus. And it gives you a direction" -Ellen MacArthur, Founder and Chair of Trustees at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Some three to four years later, the sportswoman chose to sail for 71 days and 14 hours, covering more than 26,000 miles during the course of her journey.

This led to MacArthur scoring a new world record in 2005, as the fastest person to circumnavigate the globe single-handedly. While this record has since been surpassed, MacArthur is still considered as Britain's most successful offshore racer.

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