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Cobbling together a slender living as a sailing instructor, MacArthur quietly built her reputation on the racing circuit, then became an overnight sensation four years ago in the Vend�e Globe, when she and her 60-foot monohull, Kingfisher, chased the winner, Michel Desjoyeaux, to the far corners of the planet for 94 days.
MacArthur insists that each of her crafts has a distinct personality. "My trimaran is very strong spirited," she says of the boat she calls Moby. "That's why I had eyes painted on her hull--so she could see where she was going." Moby speaks to MacArthur through her sails, her rudders, her central daggerboard. "Every rope, every beam has its own voice," she says. When Moby cuts through the scowling seas, those voices harmonize like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Soon MacArthur and Moby will be riding the swells again--this time in an attempt to claim the fastest time for a solo west-to-east crossing of the Atlantic. It won't be easy. In establishing the record of six days, four hours, one minute and 37 seconds in July, her old rival Joyon shaved a staggering 22 hours off the existing mark, which MacArthur had missed by 75 minutes the summer before. "Francis had perfect weather and a boat that never broke down," she says.
Additional frisson will be provided by another French sailor, Thomas Coville, whose 60-footer is moored near Moby at North Cove Marina in lower Manhattan. Coville wants the record too. When the tailwinds are deemed favorable, he and MacArthur may well set off at the same time.
MacArthur welcomes the challenge. "There's a far greater chance that I won't break the record than I will," she says, "but it's not impossible."
Redefining the impossible, after all, is MacArthur's specialty.