Ahead of International Women’s Day tomorrow, Mother Nature’s toughest conditions are being taken on by nurses, marketing managers, housewives, PAs, engineers and lawyers from around the globe who are taking part in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.
Ladies onboard Clipper 70 Switzerland
There are 229 women from more than 30 countries on the 2013-14 edition of the world’s longest ocean race, making up 35 per cent of the entirely amateur crew. The majority are in the 18 to 40 age bracket.
Some of the women share extracts from their crew diaries about their adventure, the tough conditions and the skills they have learnt so far in the 40,000 mile global circumnavigation where gender does not play a part.
Caroline Marrows is a British 43-year-old marketing manager and round the world crew member on Team Garmin. She says: 'I'm proud to be part of an increasing number of women who look for challenges like the Clipper Race and really push their own boundaries to achieve truly remarkable things in their lives.
'There is a very physical element to sailing, like yanking on sails and winching, but after a few weeks, I found I'm just as strong as most of the guys.'
'Oh and I can't forget, I've learnt to make chocolate cake whilst the boat is heeled at a 45 degree angle.'
Kristi Wilson, 27, an American round the world crew member on Derry~Londonderry~Doire, usually works in medical equipment sales in New York.
'This race is about finding personal limitations you never knew you had before and pushing beyond them,' she says.
'From being thrown across the foredeck by massive waves, swinging around at the top of a pitching mast, to being knocked down in the Southern Ocean, I have encountered some of the most terrifying experiences of my life. Somehow through all this you manage to find a new resilience you never knew existed and the strength to get through whatever is thrown your way on this race.'
Roser Preuss is a German 26-year-old student round the world crew member on Switzerland. She says she is very proud as a woman on this race to be part of the only team out of 12 that is led by a female skipper, Vicky Ellis.
'The women on our boat play at least as important a role as the men and surprisingly don't lack in muscle or strength. I'm happy to be on quite a 'female' boat where intelligence and technique are valued more than brute force.'
British sailor Vicky Ellis, 30, acknowledges that she adopts a different, softer approach to skippering than her male colleagues on the 11 other identical yachts in the race, with safety a priority over risk-taking.
'I feel totally at home when I’m on the sea. The Clipper Race offers the type of sailing I really relish, on great boats with an inspiring crew. For me, a job really doesn't get much better than this.'
The Clipper Race is a series of 16 races spanning six continents over 11 months including some of the toughest conditions on the planet.
Alysoun Sturt-Scobie, 49, a British head of HR on Switzerland, says she has learnt how resilient she is when she has had to dig deep and then even deeper when the physical conditions were so demanding.
She is also surprised by her ability to retain a quite ridiculous sense of humour when things are tough.
'Be that hanging on at bizarre angles or managing the mundane aspects of life on the boat including really light airs sailing which would test even the patience of a saint.
'What I love about the race is that it doesn't matter about your gender or background, it's your attitude that counts.'
Kristi adds that she may not be the strongest or biggest person on the boat, but many times her small size, speed, and willingness to climb (she is the ‘rig monkey’) come in handy.
'I am the first to be asked to throw on the harness when something needs taken care of up the mast or out on the boom. A headsail may be stuck without nudging a bit around the inner forestay on the bow of the boat, but it's not a problem for me to tuck in the small gap on the other side of the staysail and push with all the force of my legs to get it moving. I have found it to be a huge honour, not to mention one of the best roles on board, to be the Assistant Watch Leader for the majority of the races. I love leading evolutions, coaching other members of my watch on the helm, and rigging sails for racing headsail changes.'
Applications for the 2015/16 race are now open. With two more boats for the 10th anniversary edition, it will be the biggest race ever.
Clipper Round the World