Ellen's circumnavigation stretched her to the limit

One of the first people Ellen MacArthur met after 71 days alone at sea was Dr Kevin McMeel, who, with the other five members of Ellen’s support team, boarded her 75ft trimaran, B&Q, as soon as she crossed the finish line between Ushant and the Lizard.

Kevin (45) was aboard to check the 28 year old skipper’s health. ‘She was completely spent, both physically and mentally,’ he said. ‘She was very relieved to have achieved the record, but she also grateful for some human contact. There were lots of hugs.’

Ashore in Falmouth, Kevin gave Ellen a complete health check. He was worried about weight loss, dehydration, muscle strain, and possible damage to vital organs, as well as joint strain.

Blood tests revealed ‘a mild muscle breakdown’ – because Ellen had used up all her fat reserves and was burning muscle. A complete rest will rectify this. She also suffered some ‘wear and tear to her shoulders and elbows’, which physiotherapy will cure. The burn she sustained to her arm when thrown against the generator had healed, but the blow to her head while handling the gennaker left a scar.

‘Overall she stood up physically remarkably well, ‘ Kevin said,’ which is a tribute to her pre-voyage training. However while it’s possible to gear up for a marathon it’s not possible to gear up for 1,038 marathons!’

Of her mental state, he added: ‘Ellen is a very “people person”, very ebullient, so while her capacity to focus and concentrate is astounding, she changes gear very well into being gregarious. That’s the unique blend which makes up Ellen.’

Kevin, a specialist in accident & emergency medicine, has sailed and raced 80,000 miles in offshore events. He was approached by Offshore Challenges in 2002 to act as Ellen’s on board doctor for the Jules Verne event.

Ellen is taking the whole of March off from sailing to get back on her feet.