Please select your home edition
SW newsletters (top)

Olympian creates a new women's sailing dynasty at BOISW

by Suzanne McFadden 15 Jan 2019 02:08 PST 15 January 2019
Sharon Ferris-Choat and the all women crew on Ave Gitana - Hamilton Island Race Week - Day 6 © Richard Gladwell

As the starters' gun fires in the country's largest keelboat regatta next week, three generations of Ferris women will race together for the very first time.

For skipper Sharon Ferris-Choat - a two-time Olympian and round-the-world sailor - drawing family together in an all-female crew for Bay of Islands Sailing Week is one way to thank her mum for supporting her, as she’s dashed off to sail around the globe over the last 25 years.

And it’s also a way for Ferris-Choat to show her own daughters, aged 10 and five, that sailing isn’t “the devil”.

Ferris-Choat, who turns 45 this week, is still a seriously competitive sailor.

Her incredible sailing resume includes competing for New Zealand at the 1996 and 2004 Olympics, sailing in the Volvo Ocean Race on all-women’s team Amer Sport II, and breaking four world records on board multihull Maiden 2 on its non-stop circumnavigation of the globe.

These days she revels in offshore racing (it's her goal to establish an offshore academy in New Zealand), and she's a strong advocate for advancing women’s sailing.

She made history as skipper of the first all-female crew in the international Extreme Sailing Series, on a foiling catamaran, back in 2016. And, last year, her women’s crew won every race in the multihull division at Hamilton Island Race Week on board Ave Gitana - taking the Gun Boat Trophy for most line honour wins across the entire regatta fleet.

“We took it from all the million dollar boys,” she laughs.

But she’s also very aware that her sporting career takes her away from her family in Kerikeri – her understanding husband Neil and their daughters, Sofia and Victoria.

“Last year I was away overseas for four months off and on. It takes its toll on the family,” Ferris-Choat says.

“My girls know how to sail, but sailing is a double-edged sword for them at the moment - because it takes mum away. For a while there, the girls saw it as the devil.

“But I want to show my girls that racing doesn’t have to be all at Olympic or world championship level. It can also be a lot of fun, quality family time.”

That's why she's taking them racing, along with their grandmother Pauline. As far as the regatta organisers know, they will be the first all-women’s keelboat crew in the regatta’s 17-year history.

It’s in the Bay of Islands that Ferris-Choat first encountered sailing as a young teen. She was taken out on a friend’s family yacht, where she learned to snorkel and sail a dinghy. “I was in absolute heaven,” she recalls.

She then joined the Kerikeri High School sailing team, learning to sail under the legendary Derry Godbert – who also first coached Emirates Team New Zealand sailors Blair Tuke and Andy Maloney.

Sailing also helped Ferris-Choat in the classroom. “I’m incredibly dyslexic and, until then, I was failing at school. But the self-confidence that grew from my sailing transferred into my school work,” she says.

Impressed by her daughter’s passion for the sport, Ferris-Choat’s mum, Pauline, began sailing herself. “Then my three younger brothers all got into it,” Ferris-Choat says. Her brother Justin has now sailed in the Volvo Ocean Race four times.

For the rest of this story click here

Related Articles

Sail-World NZ news : May 30 - The Week that Was
News and Editorial for May 30 - Immigration shenanigans...Defiant checks in ... Te Aihe's return Read the latest newsletter from Sail-World New Zealand, with the top stories covering the America's Cup along with the latest Editorial covering the early stages of the unfolding story allowing, or not, the America's Cup Challengers into New Zealand. Posted today at 3:19 am
The Great Escape
Planning for liberation after the outbreak, huh?! Planning for liberation after the outbreak, huh?! Well, a collection of New South Wales clubs has very much kept the spirit of Squadron Leader Roger Bushell alive. Posted on 31 May
Sail-World NZ: May 30: The week that was May 30
Welcome to's New Zealand e-magazine for May 30, 2020 Welcome to's New Zealand e-magazine for May 30, 2020 Posted on 30 May
Sail-World NZ news : May 19 - The Week that Was
Sail-World NZ - May 19: NZL32's win...AC75's reach skywards...Saffier Yachts in NZ Read the Sail-World NZ latest newsletter and editorial for May 19: covering NZL32's win...why AC75's reach skywards...Saffier Yachts arrive in NZ and the top 50 stories of the past 10 days Posted on 22 May
Sail-World NZ: May 19 2020
Welcome to's New Zealand e-magazine for May 19, 2020 Welcome to's New Zealand e-magazine for May 19, 2020 Posted on 19 May
X2. Times three...
This is the third instalment of information about the exciting new X2 by Farr This is the third instalment of information about the exciting new X2 by Farr. Since its inception we have been excited about the project, if for no other reason than it stood up to be counted as a true racing boat. Posted on 17 May
The last bus stop
Graeme Ainley - a truly great man - passed away yesterday. Graeme Ainley - a truly great man - passed away yesterday. Posted on 7 May
Gladwell's Line: Tip-toe out of the Lockdowns
Getting sailing back on track after the Lockdowns, and a look at the options for running the Cup American Magic's "pivotal" decision, as Executive Director Terry Hutchinson describes the move, puts increased certainty into the America's Cup in Auckland which is a very strong and positive signal to the sailing world, and New Zealand generally. Posted on 6 May
Sail-World NZ: America's Cup surprise..Bieker Moth
Sail-World NZ - May 5: America's Cup surprise...Bieker Moth... ETNZ goes sailing Welcome to's New Zealand e-magazine for May 5, 2020 Posted on 5 May
Howzat! (He implored)
Apologies to anyone unaware of the shenanigans surrounding a small red ball Immediate apologies to anyone around the globe who has not been indoctrinated by memories of their childhood years with the shenanigans surrounding a very hard, and reasonably small, red ball. Posted on 3 May
MBW newsletters (top)