February 11th, 2012

I finished "Taking on the World," by Ellen MacArthur

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.

The book details her life, how she fell in love with the sea, her drift into single-handed racing, and her success in the races she entered.

Don't get me wrong, the book's thorough. You'll really understand her life after it's read, it's just that beyond her Vendée Globe success, I'm not sure that she had much to say beyond her scrabbling round for sponsorship money to sail.

As an example, when she was 17 she won a sort of British "Young Yachtsman of the Year." If you'd asked me before I read the book, I'd have said I didn't know why she won it. Having read the book, I'm not the wiser. She admitted as much herself. The people she was up against had won this or that competition. So far as I can tell, she was just excitable about racing and went on a lot of sailing courses. Hardly a ringing endorsement for British sailing.

The other thing that struck me during the book was how much she didn't know, even in the run up to her big race. I mean she's a sailor, and she seem to have difficulty interpreting where to find the best winds, which just irritated me.

Don't get me wrong. I have respect for her, but this book lessened her in my eyes if I'm honest. This might make me a little unpopular I think (as she's popular in some quarters), but the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that I'm right about this.