Yesterday, the front page of the Sunday Times in the UK featured a story about Ellen MacArthur. Written by the paper’s Arts Editor it included a picture and the ‘news’ that MacArthur was retiring from competitive sailing. Instead, Dame Ellen would focus on saving the planet. All this coincided with an appearance on the radio program ‘Desert Island Discs’.
For many, the news is not so surprising, (We’ve been digging around in the archives for a similar statement made by MacArthur that is several months old, but didn’t get anywhere near the coverage). The team that bears her name – BT Team Ellen – employs Seb Josse and Nick Maloney to skipper the Open 60 and Extreme 40 respectively, though Ellen has continued to do some sailing her sailing Cv on her website doesn’t list anything after 2007.
The story says more about the pull of the radio program than anything else. Reportedly running since 1942, Desert Island Discs has an audience that sailing rarely gets and therefore is a great platform to promote the causes that MacArthur is now promoting.
And while those messages are undoubtedly important, it seems a shame that when sailing does get front page press it is for all the wrong reasons. Despite crediting the sport with her unique view of the world, MacArthur also describes offshore sailing as “brutally selfish” and suggests that competitive sailing is not-important in the fight against the environmental issues facing the planet.
Competitive sailing, more than some other sports is a great platfrom to highlight the problems to a wider audience, something that TEAMORIGIN have embraced through their recent deal with the Carbon Trust. The TeamOrigin announcement is perhaps more newsworthy, as it promises to engage corporates and to create an ongoing platfrom to bring attention to the issues. Perhaps Sir Keith needs to get on Desert Island Discs.