When you’ve got the ocean trying to kill you and other teams trying to beat you to the finish, being an all female crew can’t be plain sailing… Can it?
In the 1985 Whitbread Round the World yacht race, Tracy Edwards MBE took up the challenge of being the first person to skipper an all-female crew for nine months and 27,000 miles.
After previously doing the race with 17 men, Tracy fancied a change:
“I realised that, of the 150 people on the Whitbread Round the World race, there were only five of us girls.”
After posing the question to a few fellow sailors, none of whom had sailed around the world before, her all-female project took off. They spent the next few years preparing and training for the race, winning tournaments and overcoming any hurdles that popped up along the way.
The final barrier
“The final barrier for us was the assumption that a bunch of women could never get on for that long, that we’d all kill each other before the finish line. We didn’t know the answer to that, maybe we would!
“But we got on so well. I mean, we got on incredibly well. And yes we had arguments, we’re not sheep, we had very strong ideas about how the boat would be sailed so we did have some rows, but at the end of the day, the enemy was out there, the enemy was the ocean which is trying to kill you, and it’s the other teams you’re trying to beat.”
Contrary to what most might believe, Tracy says sailing with an all-female crew was actually easier than sailing with all men.
“I loved sailing with the guys, but lack of communication leads to really violent and quite aggressive blow outs, where as when us girls had our arguments it was very much more about the technical side of sailing and very little about the personalities.
“I think at the end of the race, none of us wanted it to finish, the last few days were just awful… we cried we spent a lot of time talking about all the experiences we’d had what we’d learned, what we’d felt about the whole thing, and none of us wanted to get off the boat.”
No men allowed
“I think theres a real empowerment that comes from working alongside all women, and I think we all felt it as we were racing around the world… Something really very special was happening and I think boyfriends and husbands felt quite excluded.”