Famous Women Sailors

Where are all the role models?

I have always been confounded when I came across references to women I'd never heard of who achieved amazing feats in small boats on the world's oceans. Why had I never heard of them?  Why weren't they role models?  I knew of all the male sailors and circumnavigators - Slocum, Chichester, Moitessier, Knox-Johnston and so on. I knew their stories in detail. Why had I never heard of Ann Davison, Krystyna Chojnowska-Liskiewicz and Naomi James? They were certainly around in my lifetime. 

Female offshore sailors have recently made their presence felt. Names like Lin Pardey and Dame Ellen MacArthur in the broadest reaches of sailing have attained household status. But there are many such women who have contributed to the marine world by going for what their hearts desired. Despite ships being considered a domain for men, and despite women being considered bad luck and not even being permitted to step aboard for centuries, a few brave women challenged the norms and set new standards for all of us. Thankfully, girls now have strong role models of women who are competent and confident in their choice of environments. Let's celebrate some of those who made a difference.

1. Grace O’ Malley (c1530 – c1603)

Grace (Gráinne in Irish) is a well-known historical figure in 16th-century Irish history. She is known as "The Sea Queen of Connacht" and "The Pirate Queen". Biographies of her have been written by the historian Anne Chambers.  Granuaile was Queen of Umaill, chieftain of the Ó Máille (O'Malley) clan in the West of Ireland, following in the footsteps of her father Eoghan Dubhdara Ó Máille. According to legend, she shaved her head and stowed aboard in boy's clothing to learn how to sail on her father's ships - hence the knickname Granuaile, which means bald Grace from "Gráinne Mhaol" in Irish.

Upon her father's death, she inherited his large shipping and trading business (sometimes accused of being a piracy trade). The income from this business, the land inherited from her mother, and the property and holdings from her first husband, Dónal an Chogaidh Ó Flaithbheartaigh, made her very wealthy (reportedly owning as many as 1000 head of cattle and horses). She commanded a fleet of vessels and men along the west coast of Ireland. Her personal command was the ship Moytura and she flew the white seahorse as her personal signal. 

When her sons, Tibbot Burke and Murrough O'Flaherty, and her half-brother, Donal-na-Piopa, were taken captive by the English governor of Connacht, Sir Richard Bingham, O'Malley sailed to England to petition Elizabeth I for their release. She formally presented her request to Elizabeth at her court in Greenwich Palace in 1593. She refused to bow to the queen as she considered them equals. The Queen apparently liked Grace and they reached an agreement for release of the captives. In return, Grace promised control of the Spanish fleet to keep them out of England's waters.

Grace O'Malley is reputedly buried in the Abbey on Clare Island beneath the O'Malley Clan crest. 

2. Ann Chamberlyne (1667-1691)

Ann is the first known female tar (sailor) in British history. She joined her brother's ship's crew in 1690 and fought the French at Beachy Head. A plaque in her memory at All Saints Church Cheyne Walk in London used to exist, but it was destroyed in World War II during a bombing raid.

The plaque stated:
"In an adjoining vault lies Anne, the only Daughter of Edward Chamberlyne, Doctor of Law’s, born in London, 20 January 1667, who having declined marriage at 23, and aspiring to great achievements unusual to her sex and age, on 30 June 1690, on board a fire ship in man’s clothing, as second Pallas, chaste and fearless, fought valiantly six hours against the French, under the command of her Brother. Returned from the engagement and after some few months married John Spragg, Esq., with whom, for sixteen more months, she lived most amiably happy. At length, in childbed of a daughter, she encountered death 30 October 1691. This monument, for consort most virtuous and dearly loved, was erected by her husband.

Snatched, alas, how soon by sudden death, unhonoured by progeny like herself, worthy to rule the Main!”

3. Jeanne Baret (c1740-1807)

French botanist Jeanne Baret was reportedly the first woman to circumnavigate the earth, albeit disguised as a man.  She was accompanied by her partner, Philibert Commerson, who was also a botanist, in pursuit of their shared passions. They sailed on the ship L'Etoile under the command of Louis Antoine de Bougainville.  Her story is chronicled in the book The discovery of Jeanne Baret: A story of science, the high seas, and the first woman to circumnavigate the globe, by Glynis Ridley. 

4. Mary Patten 

Mary Ann Brown Patten sailed a ship from Cape Horn to San Francisco in 1855 after her husband, Captain Joshua Patten, became ill.  She was 19 and pregnant with their first child. The 1st Mate, who had been discharged from his duties by Captain Patten for his lack of navigational ability and sleeping on duty, implored her to reinstate him. She refused and took responsibility for the ship and its navigation.  Her husband had been teaching her how to sail a ship all along. 

Mary Patten faced down a mutiny during the voyage and safely navigated the clipper Neptune's Car to port. According to the New York Daily Times, she also learned medicine during the voyage to care for her injured husband and is credited with keeping him alive. She delivered the ship's cargo intact and on time after 136 days at sea.  The ship's insurers, recognizing that she had saved them a fortune, rewarded her with $1000 in February of 1857. Captain Patten died in July of 1857.

Mary Patten was thus the first female commander of an American Merchant Vessel. The hospital at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in King's Point, N.Y. is named after her. Mary Patten's voyage was the inspiration for a novel by Douglas Kelley titled The Captain's Wife

5. Helen de Pourtales (1868-1945)

Swiss sailor Hélène de Pourtalès was the first woman to compete at the Olympics and the first female Olympic medalist on 22 May 1900 sailing for Switzerland in Yachting. She won a gold medal as part of a team in men's sailing. 

Hélène de Pourtalès, born in New York City as Helen Barbey, sailed on the Swiss yacht Lérina, which won the gold medal in the first race of the 1-2 ton class (which was part of the Olympic program) and silver medal in the second race of 1-2 ton class (part of the Expo program). She also participated in the open class, but did not finish. Hélène was 32 at the time of the Olympics. Her husband, Hermann, and her husband's nephew, Bernard, were also crew members on the Lérina.

6. Susan Oakes Hiscock MBE (née Sclater, 1913 – 1995)

Eric and Susan Hiscock gained some notoriety for a series of voyages on a succession of vessels all named Wanderer at a time when small boat voyaging for pleasure was not yet commonplace. The story of their first world circumnavigation (1952–1955) told in Around the World in Wanderer III, a 30-foot (9.1 m) Laurent Giles sloop, ignited a thirst for world cruising for pleasure.  It was the first of three  circumnavigations which afforded them a degree of celebrity. It was also the first of a series of books about their voyages on Wanderer III, Wanderer IV and Wanderer V. Eric also wrote technical how-to books on small boat sailing and ocean cruising, Cruising Under Sail and Voyaging Under Sail which were later combined and published as Cruising Under Sail.

The Hiscocks were awarded the Bluewater Medal by the Cruising Club of America in 1955 for a circumnavigation by canal and Cape of Good Hope by owner and wife, July 24, 1952 – July 13, 1955. The Hiscocks were both appointed Members of the Order of the British Empire in 1984 for services to yachting. Eric Hiscock died on board Wanderer V in Whangarei, New Zealand in 1986. Susan Hiscock died in Yarmouth, Isle of Wight in 1995.


7. Beryl Smeeton (1905-1979)

Biography written by their godson.
Beryl Smeeton was raised in a family of British soldiers and traveled widely throughout the world. Some of her childhood is described in the books The Stars My Blanket and Winter Shoes in Springtime, written under the name Beryl Miles in the 1930s. In 1938, she married Brigadier Miles Richard Smeeton, DSO, MBE, MC born in Yorkshire, England in 1906. After two unsuccessful attempts to climb 25,263-foot Tirich Mir, in the Himalaya, with legendary Nepali sherpa Tenzing Norgay, Beryl nevertheless achieved renown as one of the first women to climb so high. 

Miles and Beryl endured years of separation while Miles served in North Africa and later the Far East, during WWII. After the war, the couple settled on a farm on Saltspring Island, BC, with their daughter, Clio. Beryl had bought the farm during the war. 

In 1951 on a visit to England, the Smeetons bought the 46’ bermudan ketch Tzu Hang. The boat, designed by HS Rouse, had been built in Hong Kong in 1939. They returned on the boat to British Columbia, learning to sail on the way. In 1955, they sold the farm and sailed on Tzu Hang for Australia. 

In 1956 Miles and Beryl departed Melbourne on Tzu Hang to visit Clio at school in England, intending to follow the old clipper route. The journey would take them eastbound around Cape Horn, a voyage that at that time had rarely been attempted in small boats. They were accompanied by a young friend, Englishman John Guzzwell, who had been circumnavigating the world in his self-built boat, as well as by their Siamese cat, Pwe.

Approaching Cape Horn, the yacht was pitch poled by a rogue wave. Beryl, who had been on the helm, was tossed from the boat and injured but managed to get back aboard. Tzu Hang was dismasted and the topsides were severely damaged, but the three sailors managed to sail to Chile. Amazingly, in 1957, after extensive repairs, Miles and Beryl departed again to round Cape Horn. In approximately the same position, they were again dismasted and managed to make the coast of Chile. Tzu Hang was shipped to England for repairs and their story was published in their extraordinary and memorable book, Once is Enough.

They later completed a multi-year east-about circumnavigation. In 1968, they attempted Cape Horn one more time, west-about, and successfully rounded. The most amazing part was that they kept going, and not even a pitchpoling could stop them.


8. Ann Davison (1914–1992)

At the age of 39, Ann Davison was the first woman to sail the Atlantic Ocean single-handed. She departed Plymouth, England in her 23-foot boat Felicity Ann on May 18, 1952. She landed in Brittany, Portugal, Morocco and the Canary Islands, before setting sail across the Atlantic on 20 November 1952, aiming to make landfall in Antigua. Storms pushed her south and having been driven past Barbados she eventually touched land in Dominica on January 23, 1953. After an extended stopover in the Caribbean she sailed north to Florida and finally to New York by way of the Intracoastal Waterway.

Her account of the voyage was published as My Ship Is So Small. The Felicity Ann, built by Mashford Bros of Creymll (Cornwall) in 1939, was in private possession in Haines, Alaska (2008–2009) undergoing initial restoration but has now been donated to the Northwest School of Boatbuilding in Port Hadlock (WA) for further restoration. Ann was one of the Founding Members of the Ocean Cruising Club. She was inducted into the Single-handed Sailors Hall of Fame in 1988.

For further reading: http://www.wavetrain.net/lit-bits/336-ann-davison-transatlantic-on-felicity-ann

9. Sharon Sites Adams (1930-    )

In 1965, this diminutive woman in her 30s became the first woman to sail alone from California to Hawaii, which she did in 39 days in her 25-foot folkboat named Sea Sharp.  In 1969, she returned to San Diego from Yokohama, Japan in her boat, a 31-foot ketch named Sea Sharp II, after seventy-four days' sailing  from Japan,  becoming the first woman to sail solo across the Pacific. She was named the Los Angeles Times Woman of the Year in 1969.

Sharon was born in Washington, with the given names Phyllis Mae. After her parents died when she was quite young, she was looked after by different family members and given the new name Sharon. She had a tomboy childhood in the Oregon high desert, an early marriage and painful divorce, and a second marriage that ended when her husband died of cancer. Adams discovered sailing shortly after his death.

She took her first sailing lesson at Marina Del Rey, California in October 1964 at the age of 34. Six weeks after her first sailing lesson she bought a boat, and within eight months she set out to achieve her first world record. Clair Oberly built the second boat for her to sail and made the changes she wanted to enable her to single-hand across the Pacific.

In 2008 Sharon published her memoir Pacific Lady.

10. Krystyna Chojnowska-Liskiewicz (1936-   )

On 21st April, 1978, a young woman sailor docked her ship Mazurek, a Conrad 32 built in Poland, becoming the first female sailor to have single-handedly circumnavigated the earth. Poland's Krystyna Chojnowska-Liskiewicz, a shipbuilding engineer and yachting sea captain, earned the title "First Lady of the Oceans." Her bid for the race title began on February 28, 1976 in the Canary Islands.  Two other sailors had entered the race, Anne Gash of Australia and New Zealander Naomi James. Mazurek, a beautiful ocean sloop, had the length of 9.51 meters (31.2 ft), width of 2.70 meters (8.86 ft) and the total sail area of 35 square meters (376.7 sq. ft).

The route led westabout from Las Palmas through the Lesser Antilles to the Caribbean and the Panama Canal. In the Pacific,  it followed through Tahiti and Fiji toward Australia. From there, west across the Indian Ocean toward Mauritius and the southern coast of Africa, and later north along its western coast. She completed the "grand loop" on March 20, 1978. On April 21, she entered the port of Las Palmas after sailing 31,166 nautical miles and 401 days of solitary navigation, where she was met with applause from friends and journalists. She returned to Poland on June 18, 1978.

The achievement of the Lady Captain was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records, while the "First Lady of the Oceans" was admitted to the elite group of members of The Explorers Club in New York.


11. Dame Naomi James, DBE, PhD (Mrs. Haythorne) (1949-   )

Naomi James was born in New Zealand on a landlocked sheep farm and did not learn how to swim until the age of 23. She worked as a hairdresser until she boarded a passenger boat for Europe, where she met her future husband Rob James who taught her how to sail.

While on their honeymoon, Naomi told her husband of her dream to sail around the world. Chay Blyth lent her the 53-foot (16 m) yacht renamed Express Crusader, other people raised money for supplies, and the Daily Express raised sponsorship money. During her voyage, she capsized once nearly losing her mast and had no radio for several weeks.

This young determined woman set out to test the waters of the world’s oceans and returned 272 days later on 8th June 1978, completing a fast circumnavigation of the earth. James broke the earlier solo round-the-world sailing record held by Sir Frances Chichester by two days. She also later became the first woman to single-handedly sail the clipper route, eastabout and south of the three great capes, starting and finishing in the English Channel (a requirement for speed records).

After her voyage, she and her husband, Rob James, moved to Cork, Ireland. She gave up sailing in 1982 after winning the two thousand mile Round Britain Race with her husband. In 1983, while sailing in the same boat which won the race, her husband fell overboard and drowned off Salcombe, Devon. Her daughter was born 10 days later.

Naomi James was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1979 in recognition of her achievements. Dame Naomi was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in 1990. She received her PhD in Philosophy from University College Cork in 2006.


12. Kay Cottee, AO   (1954-  )

This Australian sailor captured the world's attention in 1988 when she completed a single-handed voyage around the world in 189 days. Kay Cottee was the first female sailor to perform a single-handed, non-stop circumnavigation. She performed this feat at the age of 34 years in her 37 foot (11 m) yacht, Blackmore's First Lady.

Cottee is the author of two books. Her first book, First Lady, was published by Macmillan in 1989. Her second book, All at Sea on Land, was published by Collins in 1998, about her life ashore in the ten years since the voyage.

In 1988, Cottee received the Australian of the Year Award. In 1989, Cottee was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia. Cottee is also the first Australian recipient of the Cutty Sark Medal presented by the Duke of Edinburgh. Securing her name in the list of top female sailors of the world, she became an inspiration for many more like her. Cottee now lives in Yamba on the far New South Wales north coast with television producer husband Peter Sutton. She is a skilled boat builder, diver, painter and sculptor.


13. Lisa Clayton (1958-   )

Lisa Lyttelton, Dowager Viscountess Cobham, was born in England in 1958 as Lisa Clayton. On September 17, 1994, Clayton, set sail from Dartmouth, England  aboard the 38' steel-hulled Spirit of Birmingham to circle the world nonstop and alone.  She reputedly set out to attempt two world records, namely "Fastest Sail Around the World by a Woman, Single-Handed Without Assistance" and "First British Woman to Sail Single-Handed and Non-Stop Around the World." She returned on 29 June 1995, after 31,000 miles and 285 days, despite capsizing seven times, becoming the first woman to circumnavigate solo non-stop without assistance from the Northern Hemisphere. She wrote a book titled At the Mercy of the Sea about her adventure, which was based on her daily log and the faxes she exchanged with her friend and mentor Peter Harding, which stopped after her computer crashed permanently on day 214.

She holds a Doctorate of Science from the University of Birmingham. On 1 August 1997 she married the 11th Viscount Cobham, owner of Hagley Hall in Worcestershire. He died in 2006.  

14. Catherine Chabaud (1962-  )

Catherine Chabaud was the first woman to complete a solo round-the-world voyage, non-stop and without assistance in the 1996-1997 Vendée Globe, finishing her circumnavigation in 140 days. She came in in sixth place out of 15 competitors at the start.  She set off again in 2000-2001 in a new Open 60, Whirlpool, determined to win. In that race, Catherine Chabaud lost her mast and had to head back outside of the rankings. It was in that race which a young Ellen MacArthur took a podium finish in second place, showing that women definitely had a place in the race.

Chabaud has received numerous honours including:
  • Chevalier de l’Ordre national du Mérite (1997)
  • Chevalier de l’Ordre de la Légion d’Honneur (2006)
  • Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite Maritime (2009)
Today, Catherine is involved in the Sea Initiatives/Grenelle de la Mer and today, she is an advisor for the Economic, Social and Environmental Council. She is recognised for her commitment to raise awareness about oceans and to promote a sustainable management of economic activities. To implement her projects, Catherine Chabaud has founded the association Innovations Bleues, for a sustainable development of maritime activities.

15. Tracy Edwards, MBE (1962-    )

In 1989 Tracy Edwards skippered the first all-female crew in the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race, becoming the first woman to receive the Yachtsman of the Year Trophy and was awarded the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

Sent back packing across Europe at the age of 16 after her expulsion from school to get her away from negative peer influence, she signed on as a stewardess of a yacht and found a new passion. Edwards wound up serving several positions, including deckhand and first mate, before entering her first Whitbread in the 1985-1986 competition.

She was determined to enter in 1989 with an entirely female crew. In a 2006 interview with The Guardian, she said she encountered considerable resistance, but persisted in recruiting a 12-woman crew. Her 21-year-old 58-foot yacht, Maiden, wound up second in its class, winning two out of six individual legs of the race. Edwards, who had taken out loans to buy the boat, sold it after the race. In 1990, she detailed her story in the book, Maiden.  Her second book, Living Every Second, was published in 2001.

2017 update on Maiden: Tracy Edwards has set up a foundation, The Maiden Factor, to help girls and women in the developing world. She has reacquired the yacht using crowd funding to support the effort. Then she got major funding for the restoration and a world tour has begun with several top women in sailing sharing the crew responsibilities. https://www.themaidenfactor.org/Story

On the 6th March 2019, Tracy Edwards for the second time was awarded the YJA Yachtsman of the Year voted by its membership. In over 60 years of the YJA Awards, it was an unprecedented result, with a tie, and so the 2018 YJA Yachtsman of the Year Award was presented to joint winners, Tracy Edwards and Nikki Henderson.

16. Isabelle Autissier (1956-   )

Isabelle Autissier (born 18 October 1956) is a French sailor, navigator, agronomist specialised in halieutic resources, writer, and broadcaster who stages performances on the sea and the environment. Isabelle graduated from college with a degree in nautical engineering. She finished third in the Mini Transat in 1987, and fourth in La Solitaire du Figaro in 1989. She is the first woman to have completed a solo world circumnavigation in competition (BOC Challenge 1990-91, later renamed Around Alone) coming in 7th overall.

In a decade of competitive sailing, she exhibited almost supernatural ability at sea, along with some of the worst luck anyone could encounter. She has written several books about her adventures, co-written with other authors. Isabelle faced interesting challenges at the time. I remember public criticism of her first two attempts which ended in rescues at sea from catastrophically damaged vessels.  The criticism at the time centered around the question of whether a woman was up to the challenge of solo sailing. Yet she kept going.

In 1994, she set a world record for sailing around Cape Horn from New York to San Francisco in 62 days, 5 hours and 55 minutes, beating the previous record by two weeks.

While competing in the 1994–95 Around Alone race, Autissier's vessel Ecureuil Poitou Charentes II was dismasted approximately 900 nautical miles (1,700 km) south of Adelaide, Australia. Autissier was rescued on 1 January 1995 by a Seahawk helicopter launched from the Australian Navy frigate HMAS Darwin after spending four days adrift.

In 1996, she was disqualified from the Vendee Globe when she required assistance to repair a broken rudder. In 1998–99 during her third Around Alone race, Autissier was rescued by fellow competitor Giovanni Soldini when her vessel PRB capsized approximately 1,900 miles (3,100 km) west of Cape Horn. She announced her retirement from solo racing in 1999 and in 2002 was inducted into the Museum of Yachting's Single-Handed Sailors' Hall of Fame.  

Autissier was profoundly influenced by the experience of being alone with the sea. She is a board member of the French Southern and Antarctic territories and an ambassador for the International Federation for Human Rights. She is also vice-chair of the group in charge of ‘the delicate meeting between the sea and the earth’ within the political process known as the Grenelle de la mer (the sea), holder of the French distinctions “Ordre national du Mérite” and Légion d'honneur, Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres; she is also the Chair of WWF-France (elected in December 2009).

Listen to her Tedx WWF Talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amU8V8ap5eQ

17. Dame Ellen MacArthur (1976-   )

British sailing legend Ellen MacArthur has been in the headlines consistently since 2001, when she completed the Vendée Globe at the age of 24. Determined, diminutive and without doubt a very talented sailor, MacArthur has sailed an estimated 250,000 miles and has set numerous records. She remains not only Britain’s top female sailor but one of the highest ever achievers in British sailing, and highest achieving woman in competitive distance sailing overall.

In 1994, MacArthur became a full-time yachtswoman, achieving her RYA Yachtmaster qualification and RYA Instructor, aged just 18. MacArthur became the BT/YJA Young Sailor of Year in 1995 and completed a solo circumnavigation of Great Britain in her yacht Iduna in the same year. In 1996, she undertook her first transatlantic passage followed by her first transatlantic race in the Quebec-St Malo, coming 3rd in her class. In 1997 she finished 17th in the Mini Transat solo transatlantic race after fitting out her 21 ft (6.4 m) yacht Le Poisson herself while living in a French boatyard.

She was named 1998 British Telecom/Royal Yachting Association "Yachtsman of The Year" in the UK and "Sailing's Young Hope" in France.

In June 2000, MacArthur finished first in class in the Europe1 New Man STAR solo transatlantic race on board the monohull Kingfisher. MacArthur became the youngest ever winner of the race. She sailed Kingfisher from Plymouth, UK to Newport, Rhode Island, USA in 14 days, 23 hours, 11 minutes. This is the current record for a single-handed woman monohull east-to-west passage, and also the record for a single-handed woman in any vessel.

MacArthur's second place in the 2000-2001 edition of the Vendée Globe, with a time of 94 days, 4 hours and 25 minutes, is the world record for a single-handed, non-stop, monohull circumnavigation by a woman. It was also the first podium finish by a woman in the Vendee Globe, putting to rest the questions about whether women belonged in the grueling race.

In 2002, Ellen MacArthur claimed a record-breaking victory by winning a prestigious transatlantic solo yacht race. The 26-year-old claimed first place in the Route du Rhum race after crossing the finish line in Guadeloupe, French West Indies. She was named Yachtsman of the Year for a second time. 

In June 2004, MacArthur sailed her trimaran B&Q/Castorama from Ambrose Light, Lower New York Bay, USA to Lizard Point, Cornwall, UK in 7 days, 3 hours, 50 minutes. This set a new world record for a transatlantic crossing by women, beating the previous crewed record as well as the single handed version.

In 2005, MacArthur beat Francis Joyon's existing world record for a single-handed non-stop circumnavigation. MacArthur in the trimaran B&Q/Castorama sailed 27,354 nautical miles (50,660 km) at an average speed of 15.9 knots. Her time of 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes 33 seconds beat Joyon's then world record time by 1 day, 8 hours, 35 minutes and 49 seconds. She had no more than 20 minutes' sleep at a time during the voyage, having to be on constant lookout day and night. In 2007 Joyon beat MacArthur's world record in 57 days, 13 hours 34 minutes and 6 seconds in IDEC II.

In 2002, MacArthur released her  autobiography entitled Taking on the World.  In 2003, MacArthur set up the Ellen MacArthur Trust (now the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust), a registered charity, to take young people, aged between 8 and 24 inclusive, sailing to help them regain their confidence on their way to recovery from cancer, leukaemia and other serious illnesses. In September 2010, she published a second autobiography entitled Full Circle.

18. Pat Henry

Born in Chicago, and growing up in Bloomington IL, Pat Henry became the first American woman to solo circumnavigate via the Panama and Suez Canals, leaving from Acapulco, Mexico in 1969. She headed west around the world on an odyssey of self-discovery.  With a failed marriage and financial ruin via a business failure tied up in lawsuits, she was hoping to save herself and her self-esteem. With $300 and her boat, Southern Cross, she left to sail the world alone. She was hoping to find her optimism at sea.

During eight years of testing herself and her skills, she crossed oceans, weathered storms, survived reefs and encounters with large ships, overcame equipment failures and waited out flat calm. She survived by becoming an artist.

Today, Pat makes her home in Puerto Vallarta and shares what she learned through teaching, public speaking, writing and her art. In 2004, to offer other women an opportunity to reach for their dreams, too, she helped launch Coming About, Any Woman's Sailing School in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. She is the recipient of the Golden Circle Award (March 2000) from the Joshua Slocum Society International.

18. Florence Arthaud (28 October 1957 – 9 March 2015)

Florence Arthaud signing her last book 
The first woman to win a single-handed ocean race overall, Florence Arthaud won the Route du Rhum (Saint-Malo, France, to Pointe-à-Pitre, French Caribbean) in 1990. In 1990, she established a new world record for the fastest solo crossing of the North Atlantic, beating the previous record by two days. In 1997, she won the Transpacific with Bruno Peyron.
She was a French sailor from Boulogne-Billancourt. Her father Jacques Arthaud, was director of the Arthaud publishing house. At age 17, she was in a serious car accident, which resulted in paralysis. She was hospitalized for six months and her recovery took two years. She had a daughter with Loïc Lingois, a French professional sailor. 

In 2015, Arthaud took part in Dropped, a reality television show on TF1 in which sportspeople were transported by helicopters into the wilderness. On 9 March 2015, she died in a helicopter collision in Argentina along with nine other people, two of whom were fellow contestants during the filming.

Un vent de liberté. 2009/08/11, Librairie du Renard, Paimpol, France.

19 & 20. Michelle Demai and Sabrina Thiery


On the 2nd of October 2002, Michele Demai, a journalist, TV anchorwoman and writer, and her daughter, Sabrina Thiery, a doctor in astrophysics, completed the Northwest Passage in their 42 foot steel cutter, Nuage. They had good luck crew, a black cat named Pungo.

22. Mary Blewitt (1923-2000)

The late Mary Blewitt, better known by her married name of Mary Pera, was involved with sailing for most of her life. A top ocean racing navigator as well as secretary of the Royal Ocean Racing Club for a number of years, she was also Chairman of the ISAF racing rules committee, and an international judge and jury chairman at major championships and regattas.

She may be best known in the yachting community as the author of Celestial Navigation for Yachtsmen. A bestseller for more than 50 years and now in its 12th edition, her concise and clear style of explaining such a complex subject made it the bible for generations of ocean navigators. We have it aboard Aleria

There's a nice biography here and an obituary here.

23. Lin Pardy (1944- )

Born in Detroit Michigan, Lin was raised in Los Angeles County. Her early sailing experience – summer sailing on lakes of Michigan in 14 foot Old Town Sloop until age of 5. She studied accounting and music. She met Canadian Larry Pardy in 1965. They romanced for three weeks, joined forces June 12, 1965, and married October 31st 1968. Together they have sailed more than 198,000 sea miles aboard their engineless vessels Seraffyn and Taleisin. By writing about their adventures, Lin not only financed their live aboard cruising lifestyle, but also influenced generations of sailors to cut the ropes and head off for points unknown. Her motto, "Go small, go simple, go now" was highly influential. They now live in New Zealand. 

Lin and Larry hold several records: Smallest boat to have circumnavigated contrary to the prevailing winds around all the great southern capes, only couple to have circumnavigated both east-about and west about on boats they built themselves, using traditional means of navigation and having no engine.

Their blog with all their books can be accessed here. To read an excerpt of a book about their lives, As Long As It's Fun, click here. Lin and Larry are recipients of the Ocean Cruising Club's Lifetime Sailing Award for 2018. 

24. Dawn Riley (1964-  )

Dawn Riley is one of the best-known sailors in the world. She was the first woman to manage an entire America's Cup syndicate, the first American, man or woman, to sail in three America's Cups and two Whitbread Round the World races and is one of the forerunners in providing community access into the sport of sailing. Today, she does motivational speaking and coaching, and supports a range of charitable causes. See her website for more information.

In 2013, she released a book titled Taking the Helm, telling her story with help of author Cynthia Goss. She likens the grueling round the world races she led as getting an MBA under survival conditions.  Today, she serves as executive director of Oakcliff Sailing Center in Oyster Bay (N.Y.), a unique school that grooms the next generation of world-class sailors, teaching them not only sailing but also about sponsorship and the business of sailing. Beneath the Surface, a documentary short, featuring Dawn Riley, Betsy Alison, and Amanda Callahan, is about the discrimination faced by women in the sport of sailing.

25. Rona House

With a background in designing laboratory equipment, mathematical research and other technical domains as well as a deep love for the sea, English sailor Rona House has logged hundreds of thousands of miles at sea. Rona House, a mathematician, sailed with Roger Swanson aboard his Bowman 57 Cloud Nine, including voyages to the Antarctic and Arctic. An account of the Antarctic Voyage for which Roger Swanson received the 1988 Cruising World Medal for Outstanding Seamanship appears in Cruising World (January 1989).

Rona went on to sail Cacique, a Vancouver 27 around the world between 1990 and 1993. Sailing mainly single-handed, but occasionally with friends, she cruised extensively in the Caribbean and New Zealand.
  • 1990 Atlantic crossing Falmouth to Sint Maarten and the Virgin Islands: 47 day non-stop crossing
  • 1991 Cruising Caribbean and then across the Pacific
  • 1992 Opua to Gisbourne, NZ and return. New Zealand to Thailand
  • Cacique
  • 1993 Thailand to England via Suez Canal and Mediterranean
Rona House's circumnavigation aboard her Vancouver 27 earned her the Ocean Cruising Club's Rose Medal in 1993 for a meritorious shorthanded voyage.

There's a great account of Rona's brush with death in Cruising World January 2008 when she fell overboard and watched her boat sail away from her. She swam for her life when she spotted a fishing boat, then convinced the men to take her to her boat despite the language barrier.

She wrote several articles for Cruising World including one on single-handed security (June 1997), . 

A Cruising World article in the November 1995 edition called Wanderlust was written by Bernard Moitessier, Skip Novak, and Rona House.

On 21st December 2016, Rona's yacht, a Vancouver 34, Hello World sank by the Motorua Islands off Cape Karikari, NZ. Rona rowed for three hours to an anchored fishing boat and eventually made her way back to Auckland. She now is touring New Zealand by camper and otherwise lives on a barge in British waters.

Check out Rona's photo and video albums on Flickr.

Rona has shared the following stats about her voyages:
  • Circumnavigation of 1235 days - 3 years 4½ months
  • Other info: 
    • Hurricanes at sea, 1 
    • Cyclones at sea, 1 
    • Hit ship, 1 
    • Hit by ship, 1 
    • Hit whale, 1 
    • Pirates, 1 
    • Sunk, 1 
  • "Life's too short for repeats."

26. Fran Flutter

Tally Ho, the ship Fran Flutter grew up on.

Fran Flutter spent a year at sea as a child in the 1950s when her parents bought Tally Ho, a 48-foot gaff rigged cutter, and sailed from England to the Caribbean with their two young daughters. When they returned to England they lived aboard Tally Ho, and Fran with them until she was 18 years old. So began a lifestyle that would take Fran on a solo journey around the world. She bought the 35ft sloop Prodigal in Holland, refitted her in Falmouth, England and then set off ocean cruising. Leaving UK waters in the summer of 1995, by December 1996 she had reached New Zealand by way of the Canaries, West Indies, Panama and the long haul across the Pacific. Prodigal is a 35ft one-off, designed by American Jerry Cartright and built in Canada in 1982. In 1996, she was awarded the Rose Medal for her single-handed sailing foray by the Ocean Cruising Club. In 1999, Fran Flutter completed a circumnavigation on Prodigal of Penryn  sailing solo 33,000 NM for which she received the OCC's prestigious Barton Cup

27. Beth Leonard

Beth Leonard and her husband, Evans Starzinger, completed their first circumnavigation of the earth in 1995, a three-year west-about voyage aboard their 37-foot ketch, Silk. Within months of their return, they decided to head off again in a custom built 47-foot aluminum sloop, Hawk, to sail the high latitudes. During four years building Hawk, Beth began sharing what she had learned through speaking engagements, books, and magazine articles. By the time they set out on their second circumnavigation in 1999, Beth had finished her book, The Voyager's Handbook, widely recognized as the definitive guide to blue water cruising.

In 2007 they completed a second 65,000 miles circumnavigation, east-about, round all the great capes and above the Arctic Circle. In 2008 they cruised again around Patagonia, the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, and then up the Atlantic in 2009 to St Helena, the Caribbean and back to the Chesapeake Bay to return to where they had started the voyage on Hawk

Over the course of the decade while living aboard Hawk and sailing more than 75,000 nautical miles, Beth wrote hundreds of articles for more than a dozen sailing magazines including Yachting World, Yachting Monthly, Cruising World, Blue Water Sailing, and SAIL. She also completed the second edition of The Voyager's Handbook, adding new chapters and vastly expanding the material in every chapter. Her fact-based analytical approach combined with a respect for the many different ways that people live aboard their boats allow her readers to find their own best path to realizing their cruising dreams.

Beth and Evans have won a number of noteworthy awards for their cruising. These include:
  • The 2003 Vasey Vase by the Ocean Cruising Club for their 9000 miles/59-day non-stop passage in the southern ocean and 2009 Vasey Vase for the 2008 cruise to South Georgia
  • The Far Horizons Medal by the Cruising Club of America
  • The Seven Seas Award, for their deep commitment to good seamanship. This honor has only been awarded sixteen times in the SSCA's history. 
  • Beth's book "Blue Horizons" won the Outdoor Literature category of the 2007 National Outdoor Book Awards. It's the first time a sailing book won the Literature prize. 
  • Beth was also awarded the Geoff Pack Memorial Trophy by the Ocean Cruising Club in 2014 for a lifetime of writings and publications on important issues which have helped many overcome obstacles and encouraged them to cruise in small boats. 
For more information, go to http://www.bethandevans.com.

Previous to their first voyage they both worked for McKinsey & Company, a leading corporate strategy consulting firm. Beth has written three books (The Voyager's Handbook, Blue Horizon's and Following Seas) and now is Editor of Seaworthy Magazine and Director of Technical Services at BoatUS.

28. Denise "Dee" Caffari MBE (1973-  ) 

Dee Caffari celebrates after the Vendee Globe 2009 

Dee Caffari is a British sailor, and in 2006 became the first woman to sail single-handedly and non-stop around the world "the wrong way"; westward against the prevailing winds and currents. She was awarded an MBE in recognition of her achievement. In September 2007, Caffari's autobiography Against the Flow was published by Adlard Coles Nautical.

In February 2009, Caffari completed the Vendée Globe race and set a new record to become the first woman to sail solo, non-stop, around the world in both directions. The OCC Award of Merit went to Dee Caffari in 2009 for becoming the first woman to sail solo non-stop around the world in both directions.  

In March 2009, Caffari's autobiography Against the Flow was published in paperback with an additional chapter charting the lead up to her Vendee Globe entry and subsequent world record achievement.

In June 2009 Dee Caffari set a new record for circumnavigating Britain and Ireland after crossing the Solent finish line on her Open 60 Aviva having beaten the existing record by 17 hours.
Caffari was a crewmember aboard Team SCA for the 2014–15 Volvo Ocean Race.

Dee Caffari has sailed around the world five times. She is the first woman to have sailed single-handed and non-stop around the world in both directions and the only woman to have sailed non-stop around the world three times.

Dee is currently skippering a mixed crew entry entry in the VOR 2017-2018 - 5 women and 5 men. This is a great thing for the sport, the race, and for women's sailing. Read Brian Hancock's tribute to her.


29. Adrienne Cahalan (1964 -  )

Australia’s most celebrated yachtswoman, Irish navigator Adrienne Cahalan, sailed into Hobart aboard the Brenton Fischer skippered TP52 Ragamuffin to cement her place as the first woman ever to compete in 25 Sydney Hobart Yacht Races.




30. Jeanne Socrates 

Jeanne Socrates, aboard s/v Nereida, successfully completed a nonstop, single-handed, unassisted sail around the world on the 8th of July 2013, when she passed Ogden Point at the entrance to Victoria Harbour, British Columbia, 259 days after leaving Victoria in October 2012.

She became the first woman to sail solo nonstop around the world from North America and the oldest woman to sail solo nonstop around the world (a record noted in the Guinness Book of Records). This was her third attempt to circumnavigate solo, nonstop and unassisted - east-about via Cape Horn and the Southern Ocean - all attempts made without the help of a shore-based support team.

She received the Ocean Cruising Club's Special Award on landfall and, in April 2014, OCC's premiere award, the Barton Cup. On 7th March 2014, she was presented with the Cruising Club of America's Blue Water Medal and, in April, with the Royal Cruising Club's Seamanship Medal. She was short-listed for both the Yachtsman of the Year Award (U.K.) and also for the Yachtworld Hero of the Year Award (U.S.A.).

In 2018, Jeanne departed on yet another attempt at a solo nonstop circumnavigation. 


31. Susanne Huber-Curphey

Susanne aboard Nehaj. Photo credit Dr. Guido Marx.

In 2017, German sailor and multiple times circumnavigator, Susanne Huber-Curphey became the first woman to single-hand through the Northwest Passage, completing East 6. She is a prior winner of the CCA Rod Stephens Trophy for Outstanding Seamanship after rescuing her husband from his sinking yacht and has received a TransOcean Medal in recognition of her solo circumnavigations. She and her husband sail around the world separately on their own yachts in what Susanne describes as an unconventional marriage.

Susanne was awarded the Ocean Cruising Club's Barton Cup in April 2018. She received extraordinary praise from Victor Wejer, who advised Susanne during her passage in s/v Nehaj (11·9 m cutter) which she built herself. He wrote to me that Susanne completed her passage “with great style, ability and perseverance, beating many experienced crew who were way ahead. She provided all support and immense friendship to others, even when her own resources were at their limits.”
Having now corresponded with her for several months, I am truly in awe of this gentle soul that plies the seas with the utmost degree of seamanship and humanity. I am truly blessed to have made her acquaintance.

Susanne was underway, leading the group of solo sailors in the Longue Route Race around the world, alongside the skippers taking part in the Golden Globe re-creation of the original race 50 years ago. As she and Nehaj approached South Africa, she announced that they would not be heading to France but rather continuing on to the Pacific in the spirit of Moitessier's original voyage in the GGR aboard Joshua. She made landfall in Hobart, Tasmania on February 20 after 251 days at sea. During her eight months at sea Nehaj sailed 360º + 216º of longitude and 33,000 nautical miles with an overall speed of 5.5 knots. She beat the virtual sailing time of 'Joshua' 50 years before by four days on his route 360º + 206º of longitude from Plymouth to Tahiti.

Susanne gives this advice for the Southern Ocean: "keep the mast out of the water and keep the water out of the boat." Wise woman. 


32. Tania Aebi (born 1966)

Tania at 18.
American Tania Aebi completed a solo circumnavigation of the world in a 26-foot sailboat between the ages of 18 and 21, making her the first American woman and the youngest person at the time to sail around the world alone. Varuna was a Taylor 26, the Canadian version of the Contessa 26. She sailed with Tarzoon, the cat who joined her crew along the way. I remember the headlines in NYC when she cast off from South Street Seaport. She was an instant and controversial sensation. 

Concerned about her lack of ambition, Tania's father offered her the opportunity to sail around the world in lieu of a collage education. In essence, her father set her off to sea to prove herself. Brave man.  Aebi had practically no sailing or navigation experience when she departed on her journey on 28 May 1985. Civilian GPS receivers were unavailable at the time so Aebi navigated by celestial navigation and a radio direction finder. She used the first leg of her journey from New Jersey to Bermuda as a sea trial. Tania was by many standards poorly prepared for her voyage, but she prevailed through common sense, skills she acquired underway, and sheer determination.

Despite many challenges, she accomplished her goal and proved to her father that she could complete a monumental task. Her arrival back in New York City on November 6, 1987 after a cold Fall transit across the Atlantic was applauded by the news media. Aebi recounted the story of her voyage in her book Maiden Voyage. In 2005 Tania Aebi published her second book, I've Been Around.

In 2008, Tania undertook a new voyage with her two teenage sons. They sailed a steel monohull across the Caribbean and South Pacific where she traded off with the boys' father, her ex-husband Olivier Berner, in Papeete, Tahiti. Olivier and his sons continued their cruise from there.

Tania Aebi lives in Vermont, conducts motivational speaking engagements, writes columns for several magazines and leads custom sailing charters.


33. Jessica Watson (born 1993)

Jessica Watson, OAM  is an Australian sailor who completed a southern hemisphere solo circumnavigation at the age of 16. Watson sailed out of Sydney Harbour on 18 October 2009 in her pink-hulled Ella Baché-sponsored Ella's Pink Lady, a 10.23-metre (33.6 ft) S&S 34. Watson headed northeast crossing the equator in the Pacific Ocean before crossing the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. She returned to Sydney on 15 May 2010, three days before her 17th birthday. 

Several days after passing the Falkland Islands, she suffered four knock-downs in a severe storm with 10-metre waves and 70-knot (130 km/h) winds. The storm caused minor damage to her boat and her emergency beacon was inadvertently activated. South of Australia, Watson suffered more bad weather and at least three knockdowns, luckily without any real damage or injury. The swells she experienced in the Great Australian Bight were up to 12 metres in height.

Watson completed her journey on day 210 of her voyage on 15 May 2010 when she arrived in Sydney Harbour. She was met by hoards of spectators including then Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. Watson gracefully walked along a specially made pink carpet while 150,000 fans sang Australia's National Anthem. Her 17th birthday was three days later. 

The voyage was shorter than the required 21,600 nautical miles to be officially considered a global circumnavigation for the records. Watson never claimed the voyage to be an attempt at such, preferring the less formal term 'around the world'. Jessica had sailed alone and unassisted, passed under the four required capes, and was the youngest to have done so, but the orthodromic route she had taken did not total the necessary 21,600 miles that is equivalent of the girth of the Earth at the equator. Watson commented on this matter in her book True Spirit. She stated that she wrote a number of letters to the WSSRC asking what she had to do to claim the record. Their answer was that she could not claim the record since age records were no longer recognized.

In recognition of her achievement Watson was named the 2011 Young Australian of the Year, and the following year was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia. Since then, Watson has gone on to crew and skipper several successful entries in races such as the Mini-Transat, Round the Island Race in GB, and the iconic Sydney to Hobart Race. She currently resides in Buderim, Queensland.


34. Laura Dekker (born 1995)

Laura Dekker is a New Zealand born Dutch sailor. Dekker spent the first five years of her life at sea, and sailed often with her father after the family's return to the Netherlands. Dekker was born in the city of Whangarei, New Zealand, during her parents' seven-year sailing trip. Her father, Dick Dekker, is Dutch and her mother, Babs Müller, is German. Dekker has Dutch, German, and New Zealand citizenship. Her parents divorced in 2002.  After the separation of her parents, Laura lived with her father, and her younger sister Kim lived with her mother. For her eighth birthday, she received the book Maiden Voyage, Tania Aebi's memoir of her round-the-world sailing trip. She has owned several boats, all named Guppy.

In 2009, she announced her plan to become the youngest person to circumnavigate the earth single-handed. A Dutch court stepped in, owing to the objections of the local authorities, and prevented Dekker from departing while under shared custody of both her parents. In July 2010, a Dutch family court ended this custody arrangement, and the record-breaking attempt finally began on 21 August 2010. Dekker successfully completed the solo circumnavigation in an 11.5-metre (38 ft) two-masted seagoing 38-ft Jeanneau Gin Fizz ketch, arriving in Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten, 518 days later at the age of 16. She didn't stop there, but continued sailing to New Zealand. 

Laura's bitterness toward the Dutch government and absolute love of the sea has caused her to make New Zealand her home. In November 2014 Dekker's book One Girl, One Dream was published. in the same year, the movie Maidentrip was released. In February 2015, she obtained the Yachtmaster Ocean Certificate of Competence (sailing vessel). In May 2015, she married Daniel Thielmann, also resident in New Zealand. When in New Zealand, Laura and Daniel live on her boat in Whangarei. But Guppy will soon be heading to LA. Read about it on her website. 

I had the great pleasure of corresponding with Laura Dekker during the period when she was awarded the Ocean Cruising Club Award of Merit in 2013. She struck me as a truly dedicated sailor. Unlike others who have courted fame, it seems she simply always wanted to sail and to enjoy her private life, not unlike a young Bernard Moitessier. In her words, "I feel like freedom is when you are not attached to anything."



35. Carolijn Brouwer (Born 1973)

Carolijn Brouwer is an accomplished sailor from the Netherlands who competed in three Olympic Games and three Volvo Ocean Races (2014-15 Team SCA and 2001-02 Amer Sports Too, and Dongfeng 2017-2018). Her ability to drive the VOR boat fast in 2014-15, particularly in the in-port races and leg starts, caught the eye of Charles Caudrelier and it paid off in 2018. Carolijn Brouwer and Marie Riou crewed on Dongfeng as the first women sailors aboard a winning entry in the Volvo Ocean Race.

Brouwer, a two-time ISAF Sailor of the Year in 1998 and 2018 who lives in Sydney, Australia, is now set to become the first woman to helm an America's Cup boat. This trophy has been around for 168 years and the Netherlands will be taking part for the first time. Stay tuned to this space.


Dongfeng VOR team 

NOTE: The Volvo Ocean Race changed the rules to encourage more women to compete as of 2017-18. The new CEO of the VOR was Ellen MacArthur's campaign manager so hopefully, more advances for women will follow. 

36.  Marie Riou (Born 1981)

Carolijn Brouwer and Marie Riou crewed on Dongfeng as the first women sailors aboard the winning entry in the Volvo Ocean Race.

Marie Riou comes from a talented sailing family – her brothers Gwénaël and Morgan are also big names on the French sailing scene. A Volvo Ocean Race newbie, Riou came into the event after competing in the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games. She’s a multiple world champion, having made a name for herself in the Nacra 17 class alongside long-time sailing partner Billy Besson – and linked up with Dongfeng to test her mettle offshore.

37. Wendy Tuck (Born 1965)

Wikimedia Commons

Clipper 70s setting out on the race on Lough Foyle.
Australian sailor Wendy Tuck, skipper of the Sanya Serenity Coast, became the first woman to ever win a round the world yacht race after clinching the overall victory in the Clipper 2017-18 Race.

Tuck was born in Australia in 1965. Having begun sailing at the age of 24, she has competed in more than 10 Sydney Hobart Yacht races and was the first woman skipper to finish in 2017, earning the Jane Tate Memorial Trophy.

Tuck first took part in the Clipper Round the World race in 2015-16, the first Australian woman to do so. In 2017-2018 she became the only Australian to repeat the challenge skippering the 70-foot yacht, Sanya Serenity Coast, over 40,000 nautical miles and six oceans. On 27 July 2018 she crossed the finish line becoming the first female skipper to win the Clipper Round the World Race (or any round the world yacht race). And in an additional win for women’s sport, second place went to British Sailor Nikki Henderson, 25, the Skipper of Visit Seattle. In March 2019, Nikki was awarded the YJA Yachtsman of the Year Trophy in a tie with Tracy Edwards. Never before has there been a tie in the 60 year history of the awards.

Tuck says she was inspired by other yachtswomen such as Ellen MacArthur and Kay Cottee. Interviewed after the race, she said, “If one little girl sees this, sees it can be done and has a go, that will be what matters to me.”

She is a guest skipper on Maiden's global voyage in 2018 in support of The Maiden Factor Foundation.


38. Abby Sunderland (Born 1993)

Abby Sunderland is an American sailor who unsuccessfully attempted to become the youngest person to sail around the world solo at age 16. Her brother Zac had been the first sailor under age 18 to circumnavigate. Abby's yacht was dismasted in the Indian Ocean and she had to be rescued in a massive SAR operation. There was much controversy around her attempt, which was delayed and plagued with equipment problems, putting her at risk. Her family, which was negotiating for a reality TV show, made the decision for her to depart anyway. Her father made a documentary film and Abby wrote a book about her ordeal.  http://soloround.blogspot.ie/ She is reportedly taking flying lessons to circumnavigate by plane.

Abby is included here because of her notoriety and the lessons learned from her ill fated endeavor.


Update from S Australian Police 2 Jan 2019:

An overturned vessel found off the coast of Kangaroo Island on New Year's Eve has been identified as the 'Wild Eyes'.
The vessel was spotted from the air by a tuna spotting plane about 11 nautical miles south of Vivonne Bay, Kangaroo Island about 12.30pm on Monday 31 December. The police helicopter (PolAir) was sent to investigate, along with two commercial fishing vessels operating nearby.
The boat was subsequently identified as the 'Wild Eyes', which had been abandoned eight years ago in the middle of the Indian Ocean during a round the world voyage.
On 10 June 2010, the "Wild Eyes" was dismasted in rough seas halfway between the Western Australian coast and Africa in the Indian Ocean while American Abby Sunderland was attempting to become the youngest person to sail around the world solo. A rescue was coordinated by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and she was eventually rescued by a French commercial fishing vessel on 12 June.

39. Donna Lange (Born 1961)

Donna Lange of Bristol, RI started with a solo circumnavigation of the North Atlantic. She completed her first solo circumnavigation with two stops and later completed her 2nd solo circumnavigation Twice Around in 2016. It was supposed to be non-stop, but Inspired Insanity, a Southern Cross 28, lost her mast approaching Cape Horn from the west, and being engineless, Donna had to jury rig a mast and sail to the Panama Canal.  Donna is an RN, singer/songwriter/recording artist, educator/inspirer for young women who are new to sailing, and author of children's and adult books. She holds a USCG Master's license and is the Founder and Executive Director of OceansWatch North America. Doona is a mother of four and grandmother of eleven. She handles deliveries and instruction for sailors along the NE to Caribbean corridor.

See: www.donnalange.com.

40. Sam Davies (Born 1984)

Sam Davies is a British yachtswoman residing in France. Among her accomplishments are the single-handed circumnavigation in the Vendée Globe race in 2008-2009, where she was the third to cross the finish line but placed fourth on corrected time. Competitor Marc Guillemot crossed the line 48:40' after her but a time allowance of 50 hr was applied following both competitors' diversion to assist injured skipper Yann Eliès. Marc Guillemot benefited from a larger handicap because of his forward position in the race. She attempted the Vendée Globe again in 2012-2013 but was dismasted.

Sam was named 2009 YJA Yachtsman of the Year. She served as skipper of Team SCA in the 2014-2015 Volvo Ocean Race.  Through her racing, Sam raises money to fund heart operations for children born with heart defects via Initiatives Cœur. Sam has a son and is engaged to French sailor Romain Attanasio.


41. Team SCA in the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-2015

Although I don't have the resources to profile each of the women who crewed in the various legs of the VOR in 2014-2015 on this all female entry, I want to acknowledge their perseverance and passion for ocean racing and their contribution to elevating the profile of women in this grueling sport. It's one of very few sports in which women can effectively compete alongside and directly against men, and win. So hats off to the crew of Team SCA.

Sam Davies (Skipper)
Libby Greenhalgh (Navigator)
Abby Ehler
Anna-Lena Elled Reserve Onboard Reporter
Annie Lush
Carolijn Brouwer
Elodie-Jane Mettraux
Justine Mettraux (Under 30)
Liz Wardley
Sally Barkow
Sophie Ciszek (Under 30)
Stacey Jackson
Corinna Halloran (Onboard Reporter)
Dee Caffari
Sara Hastreiter

Libby Greenhalgh won the B&G Navigator Prize, an award that is voted on by the other navigators in the race. The team finished in an impressive 3rd in the In-Port Series, winning leg 3 in Abu Dhabi and leg 5 in Auckland. Richard Mason was shore manager for Team SCA.

42. Lisa Blair (Born 1985-  )

In 2017, Australian sailor Lisa Blair became the first woman to circumnavigate Antarctica, solo with one stop. Her yacht, Climate Action Now,  was knocked down and dismasted along the way. She constructed a jury rig and sailed herself to South Africa to effect repairs. She then continued on to complete the circumnavigation. She was awarded the Ocean Cruising Club's Seamanship Award for that effort.

She returned to Australia to helm the first all female crew in many years in the  2017-2018 Sydney to Hobart Race, in partnership with the Magenta Project. In this race, they paired four experienced crew members with four less experienced crew to provide more women the opportunity to sail offshore. Lisa championed women in sailing alongside her agenda to change our response to climate change.

Later in 2018, she planned to become the first woman to circumnavigate Australia solo nonstop and unassisted. She succeeded on December 18, 2018, in the process setting a new world record for the endeavor.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston tweeted his congratulations noting that she had been among the many crew who learned how to sail aboard the Clipper Round the World Race yachts.

43. The crew of Turn the Tide on Plastic in the 2017-2018 VOR

The women of the crew

Turn the Tide on Plastic had a mixed, youth-focused team with a strong sustainability message, led by Britain’s Dee Caffari. Caffari built a multinational, 50-50 male-female squad, with the majority under 30 years of age. Alongside the sustainability focus, the messages around inclusivity in age and gender were strong themes of a campaign that could easily surprise on the water.

The team’s guiding mission was to amplify United Nations Environment’s 'Clean Seas: Turn the Tide on Plastic' campaign throughout the eight months of the race.

The crew was:

Dee Caffari (skipper)
Nico Lunven
Martin Strömberg
Liz Wardley
Annalise Murphy
Francesca Clapcich
Bianca Cook
Lucas Chapman
Bleddyn Mon
Bernardo Freitas
Henry Bomby
Frederico Melo
Elodie Mettraux

Joanna "Asia" Pajkowska (born 13 July 1958)

Joanna Pajkowska, one of the best known Polish sailors with a rank of captain, has sailed over 200,000 nautical miles, often in single-handed or two-handed races. She is one of the most experienced female ocean sailors in the world.

Between 1995 and 2002, when living in England, she worked as a member of the sea rescue team on board the RNLI Salcombe Lifeboat, being one of  few women in this British sea rescue organization. In 1995, 1997, and 1999, she took part in the renowned Fastnet Race. 
Twice she sailed in the two-handed transatlantic races: in 1986 in the TWO-STAR on the catamaran Alamatur III and in 2001 in the Transat Jacques Vabre on board the 50ft Olympian Challenger. In 2000, on the 40-foot yacht Ntombifuti, she finished 4th in the class (in a field of 24 competitors) in the single-handed OSTAR transatlantic race. 

She took part in many multi-member team transatlantic races, including a female only crew on the 60-foot S/Y Alphagraphics in 2001 in the EDS Atlantic Challenge. In December 2002 and January 2003, on board S/Y Zjawa IV, she sailed around Cape Horn and reached the South Shetland archipelago. Between October 2006 and February 2007, she sailed halfway around the world in the two-member female only race around the world on board the 28-foot (8.5 m) boat Mantra ASIA, and won her stage of the race.

On 8 January 2009, Joanna Pajkowska completed a solo trip around the world with just one stop (in Port Elizabeth, RSA ) on board the sailboat Mantra ASIA. The estimated distance was 25,000 nautical miles and the trip lasted 198 days; it was the fastest circumnavigation by a Polish yacht person. 

She twice received the Honour Trophy of the Polish Yachting Association (Polski Związek Żeglarski) the most prestigious in the Polish yachting community, the PYA Golden Badge, and won the First Prize and "Silver Sextant" in the Rejs Roku competition (Sailor of the Year). She was also awarded with the CONRAD International Award by the Baltic Shores Brotherhood (Bałtyckie Bractwo Wybrzeża).

In 2010-2011, Joanna completed another circumnavigation on board Mantra ASIA, this time cruising together with her husband Cpt. Aleksander Nebelski. After a year and 4 months of cruising, they traveled about 22,000 nautical miles, touched every inhabited continent: the Americas, Australia, Asia, Africa, and in Europe, and visited 22 countries, stopping in more than one hundred places. For the 3rd time she received the Honour Trophy in the Rejs Roku (Sailor of the Year) competition.

In 2013 again she took part in the OSTAR Race, this time on board a 40 ft catamaran Cabrio 2, and she finished 1st Lady. In the same year on board the same catamaran she crossed the Atlantic Ocean four times, apart from the OSTAR Race, two-handed or with a crew of 3. For this achievement she received the Second Prize in the Rejs Roku (Sailor of the Year) competition.

In 2017, together with German sailor Uwe Röttgering, Joanna took part in the two-handed TWO-STAR category of the OSTAR on board the 40-foot boat Rote 66. They won in 20 days, 22 hours and 43 minutes. During that year sailors experienced extreme weather conditions, including a storm with 60kt wind and 15m waves; out of 21 yachts that started from Plymouth only 7 reached the finish line (4 boats sank). For the second time she received the First Prize and Silver Sextant in the Rejs Roku (Sailor of the Year) competition.

Cpt. Pajkowska for several years has sailed mainly in the Baltic Sea and the North Sea with a base in Poland. Frequently she sails as a mate on board STS Pogoria, taking part in an Education Under Sails STA program for young people. She also does yacht deliveries and is a charter skipper.

In 2018, "Asia" set sail again onboard an OSTAR boat Fanfan to circumnavigate nonstop around the great capes. She wrote, "Years ago, on this trail, during a lone cruise all around the globe, I had to call at a port in South Africa. I have been forced by weather conditions. Now I would like to take up the challenge again and write down the last bars in this unfinished symphony. Somehow it sits in me, so I have to try again ... "

What an extraordinary woman. I'm so glad I happened on her story.



More to come:
It's no wonder that the first batch are all competitive sailors on some front. It is easiest to find out about them because there is more written about them. There are so many out there who are not being written about and who do not toot their own horns. Soon, we'll cover more of those women who quietly influenced others to follow in more achievable paths or are just out their for their own reasons. Do you know of more fabulous female sailors that are worth mentioning? If yes, we would love to hear about them. 

To be added:

Evighedsfjord is home to Mt Atter (2,190m), the highest mountain on Greenland's west coast and first climbed back in 1956 by Lady Denise Evans, wife of the late Sir Charles Evans of Everest and Kangchenjunga fame. I believe she accompanied him on sailing/climbing adventures. Needs research. Information would be welcome from readers. 

Sophie Ciszek  https://www.cruisingworld.com/an-interview-with-sailor-sophie-ciszek#page-2

Liz Wardley PNG sailor

Clare Mary Francis MBE (born 17 April 1946) is a British novelist who was first known for her career as a yachtswoman who has twice sailed across the Atlantic on her own and she was the first woman to captain a successful boat on the Whitbread Around the World race.


  1. Just saw the movie on Laura Dekker...what courage and inspiration! Look forward to reading about your next 6.

  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dawn_Riley

  3. You might want to add Donna Lange of Bristol, RI to your bios. She's just completed her 2nd solo circumnavigation. The last one was supposed to be non-stop, but she lost her mast approaching Cape Horn from the west, and being engineless, had to jury rig a mast and sail to the Panama Canal. He boat, "Inspired Insanity," is a Southern Cross 28. See: www.donnalange.com. Contact: donnalange@hotmail.com. She is 55 years old, an RN, singer, and educator/inspirer for young women who are new to sailing.

  4. This article is excellent..Women achievers are great..
    Great Women achievers


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