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Taking on the World [Hardcover]

Ellen MacArthur
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

25 Sep 2002
"Physically I am totally exhausted and, mentally, not so far off. My whole body aches and I feel drained. My mind feels like it's been frozen and is trying to wake. Yesterday was the hardest challenge of my life, though funnily this morning feels ten times worse..." On 11 February 2001, Ellen MacArthur sailed into the French Atlantic port of Les Sables d'Olonne to complete the Vendee Globe, sailing's toughest race. She had beaten the odds and all the race could throw at her - storms, icy seas, exhaustion, rigging failures and, at the point she was fighting for the lead, an almost catastrophic collision with a container floating just beneath the surface. At 24 she became the youngest person ever to complete the race and the fastest woman ever to circumnavigate the globe. No Briton has ever sailed around the world faster. The scenes that greeted her return were extraordinary; hundreds of thousands of people lined the waterfront to cheer in "La Petite Anglaise" in her boat, "Kingfisher". During the race, climbing "Kingfisher's" 90-foot mast in the teeth of a storm to replace a sail felt "like clinging to a telegraph pole in an earthquake ...the closest to death I have ever been". But Ellen MacArthur never forgot that she had made a choice. She was chasing a dream. To give it any less than her all would to have been to let down everyone who believed in her and anyone for whom fate had denied the opportunity to realize their own ambitions. She knew she could never give up. This is her story so far: how, from her childhood in landlocked Derbyshire, she made it to the startline of the 2000/2001 Vendee Globe. And, told in full for the first time, it's the story of the race that catapulted her into the headlines and the nation's affections. Dramatic and deeply moving, "Taking on the World" should inspire and enthral everyone who reads it.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Michael Joseph Ltd; First Edition edition (25 Sep 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0718145259
  • ISBN-13: 978-0718145255
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.2 x 4.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 464,922 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

When Ellen MacArthur became the youngest person ever to complete yachting's most gruelling race, the Vendée Globe, she also assured herself of a place in sporting history as the fastest woman ever to circumnavigate the globe. As the world watched the images of her disasters and triumphs aboard her boat, MacArthur swiftly entered that pantheon of sportsmen and women whose emotional life we came to share over and above their achievements in their chosen field. We strove against the elements with her, we suffered with her when disaster loomed--and, finally, we could all take vicarious pleasure in her ultimate triumph.

This autobiography proves to have been more than worth the wait. The insights we are granted here into just what MacArthur went through genuinely tug at the heart--and never in any sentimental or manipulative way. Her very air of "ordinariness" (no film-star looks, no breast-beating egomania as in all too many sports personalities) was refreshing, but it's that monumental endurance and skill she demonstrated on her epic voyage that commands our admiration. The earlier sections of the book, detailing her childhood in Derbyshire (quite some distance from the sea) may have us impatient for her great ocean adventure, but they're skilfully and affectingly written. And when she begins her preparations for the Vendée Globe, we take a deep breath, knowing that we'll experience all the arduous adventure and danger that is facing her.

Some may argue that autobiographies are being written by younger and younger authors, with their lives still ahead of them. But surely (in this case) the timing is perfect. --Barry Forshaw

About the Author

Inspired by a sailing trip with her aunt at the age of eight, Ellen MacArthur saved her school dinner money for three years to buy her first boat. She went on to win the Young Sailor of the Year award aged 18. Three years later she won the 1998 Sailor of the Year award after winning a single-handed trans-Atlantic race. She's from Whatstandwell in Derbyshire.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Course made good 8 Oct 2002
By R. Gray
... Previous Vendee competitors -Pete Goss, Raphael Dinelli and Tony Bullimore for example - have written about their races, but this breaks the mould of such books.
Partly because Ellen's aim truly is her life story, as she wants to tell it, rather than a record of the Vendee ghostwritten with a professional auther and sandwiched with a bit of bio. Partly because there's little sense of cash-in here - it's 10 months since Ellen was significantly in the public eye, as opposed to just that of the sailing world, and the book seems a more considered and worthwhile exercise for that distance. But mostly because she tries much harder than others have to convey the emotions of ocean racing, rather than just the impressions. There's no attempt to either hide or gloss over here - for example the verbatim emails to shore manager Mark Turner, full of typing mistakes and intense passions, are a brave yet successful approach.
By giving so much of herself - her childhood, her doubts, fears and dreams, and her relationships with family and friends - within the book, Ellen establishes a vein of honesty and intimacy that means we're then in a better position than with any other author I can think of (even the genre's classics, such as Bernard Moitessier) to understand the love of the sea and sailing that drives such individuals.
And of course, at the end of the day this is still a cracking good adventure. Even if you've never sailed on anything other than a cross channel ferry, it's impossible not to get swept up in the tale of the 2000-1 Vendee, and to share the sense of drama, excitement and achievement. I remember those three months so well, stuck in an office but subscribing to Ellen's daily emails, and my delight at the almost unreal way in which sailing finally got some national attention.
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61 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Go for it 27 Oct 2002
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In the compressed days after competing in one of the toughest race-adventures devised, one option was to employ a ghost-writer to pen this biography. When you read the book you will understand why Ellen wouldn't do it.
For almost as long as she's sailed (she's still only 26), Ellen says she's had this book in her. The Vendée Globe was a later ambition and it's the book, not the race, that closes the first chapter in her life.
So what's the difference? Rich person goes on elitist adventure and finds themselves. South Pole, North pole, round the world, across the world, balloon, boat, on foot, in eight days, in eighty days. Been there, read the biography.
Wrong, Ellen was an outsider. Entranced by the sea from afar in childhood, her book is no ego-trip. She's not cashing in here. She wrote it because she has something to say: Go for it.
She did, and along the way took herself, her family, her friends, the men in her life and a legion of supporters to the brink of despair and edge of elation. For one so determined her compassion is remarkable and unpretentious.
I guess you could learn a lot about sailing by reading this book: how remarkable it is that some sailors get to the start, the danger, the skills, the sleep deprivation, the excruciating discomfort, the camaraderie, the helplessness and the weather. But it ain't what makes the book special.
Not even ten pages of acknowledgements make it special. But the fact I read them all does.
As the finish line to the race that threatened to crush her spirit approached Ellen wished she could turn around and head out to sea again. Reluctant to leave Kingfisher, she tried to steal more time aboard from hordes of press and supporters. As page 394 drew nearer I experienced a similar feeling.
If "Taking on the World" isn't the greatest book I read this year I'll eat my spinnaker.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Girl...........Brilliant Book 17 Oct 2005
By A Customer
As a sailor myself, I can understand the emotional rollercoaster Ellen experienced during her time at sea. The book not only gives an insight into what inspired her to sail but also how tough going the days at sea were. I could not put the book down from the minute i started to read it to the end.
This book is truely sensationl and inspiring. It is a must read and i guarantee anyone who reads this book will feel the same.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An emotional adventure 29 Dec 2004
Format:Audio CD
This is a well structured and entertaining story. I got enough insight into Ellen as a person, to really be gripped by the ups and downs of the great voyage - even though I knew the ending.
I listened to Ellen reading her story as I painted the outside of the house, balanced on a ladder. It certainly put the little heart stopping moments when my ladder wobbled, into perspective!
Although Ellen is not an actress she still puts enough personal feeling into the reading to more than makes up for that.
Read it, or listen to it, and it will put British winter weather into perspective!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Woman, Great Book! 27 Mar 2006
I had seen some news reports of what she had been doing which is what prompted me to buy this book, and its excellant. She tells her story in such a way that you feel that you are sat with her witnessing everything. Couple of the chapters are long which meant people only got grunts out of me for long periods of time. I think the glossary at the back of the book is a cracking idea as even the simple sailing terms i didnt know, so this i found very useful. Great read!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational 10 Nov 2008
It was thanks to this book that I sailed round Britain. It gave me the idea and it just grew into reality - so I have alot to thank Ellen for. If you are interesting in sailing round Britain use UK and Ireland Circumnavigator's Guide - you will find it very useful.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book from some one who does not read a ...
Fantastic book from some one who does not read a lot. Could not put it down. Brilliant buy it.
Published 1 month ago by CATBELLS
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by M. Mc Grath
3.0 out of 5 stars A decent enough read
I'm not altogether sure about "Taking on the World," which focuses on the early life of Ellen MacArthur, the English yachtswoman. It finishes when she's 26. Read more
Published 2 months ago by J. Bowen
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book! Great read!
An extraordinary woman, and extraordinary girl and a girl who excelled in the face of adversity! If anybody out there has Aspergers' Syndrome or any other acute mental disorder,... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Alastair Carr
5.0 out of 5 stars Motivational
A truly inspiring read about a young person with an incredible amount of self motivation growing into someone who took on some of the most atrocious conditions one can face at sea... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Quinten Fyfe
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read
Excellent book but could easily have been split in to three books. Appears to be an honest account showing the highs and lows of the early but busy part of her career.
Published 18 months ago by MS S M HARRIS
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure adrenalin thrill.
A brilliant book, thoughtfully written and the passion to succeed shines through. I don't sail, never have done and have no particular interest in it. Read more
Published 21 months ago by 1715
4.0 out of 5 stars Complusive reading
It wasn't quite one of those that you cannot put down and read cover to cover (I was on holiday so that would not have been allowed anyway), but it certainly is a very good book. Read more
Published on 11 Jun 2012 by J. Livsey
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly inspirational
I felt the book was truly written in her own words. And why not, it was her story to tell - and what a story! At times I could feel her tension and fear and elation. Read more
Published on 8 Jun 2012 by Smiler
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational
What can I say. Absolutely amazing. Every teenager should read Ellen's journey before they leave school. Read more
Published on 19 Aug 2011 by Mrs. G. Collins
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