Only 28 and 5ft 3ins tall, Ellen MacArthur set the record for a round-the-world solo sail. She was, since 2001, already the fastest woman and youngest person ever to make a solo circumnavigation. Then she set off from Falmouth in autumn, and proceeded to beat the existing record of Francis Joyon of France by one day. In the end, MacArthur completed the 27,000-mile journey in 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes and 33 seconds. On her arduous journey, MacArthur battled hurricanes, dodged icebergs and whales and endured endless nights en route through some of the world's most notorious weather spots - past the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa and round Cape Horn in South America. She never slept for more than 15-30 minutes at a stretch, just four hours a day.
The feat earned her commendations from the Queen, who will confer on her the title 'Dame', the female equivalent of a knighthood; from the Royal Navy, which made her an honorary Lt. Commander; and from Time Magazine, which named her a 'Hero of 2004'. Almost forgotten is the fact that MacArthur last year missed out on a new West-East Transatlantic record by only 75 minutes.