At the end of her record-breaking solo circumnavigation Ellen MacArthur remarked that her trimaran ‘B & Q-Castorama’ was the best boat in the world. After coming second in the 2001 Vendee Globe around the world race she made the same claim for ‘Kingfisher’, a 60’ monohull. So something had changed – she no longer considered ‘Kingfisher’ to be the best.
I wonder how Ellen understands the meaning of ‘best’. She obviously uses the word in the superlative sense to describe her boat as the most excellent, but in what context? Is ‘B & Q-Castorama’ the best because she’s the fastest?
There’s no doubt that ‘B & Q-Castorama’ has been sailed around the world faster than any other boat by a lone sailor, but in 2004 Steve Fossett and his crew aboard their 125’ maxi-catamaran, ‘Cheyenne’, broke the record for the fastest boat to sail around the globe. They did it in a time of 58 days, 9 hours, 32 minutes and 45 seconds. As a result Steve Fossett may claim his boat is the best in the world. Certainly, in terms of speed, ‘Cheyenne’ is the best.
When a claim is made that a boat is best, there needs to be a qualification – best for what? ‘B & Q-Castorama’ certainly isn’t the best boat for comfort or accommodation, and as confessed by Ellen herself, a trimaran in the exceedingly rough conditions of the southern oceans is by design not as safe as a purpose-built monohull.
Each of us may claim our boat is the best in the world, but what is at the heart of our claim?