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Sea Sure 2020 - LEADERBOARD

Round-the-world solo sailor steers clear of her fears

by Suzanne McFadden 25 Jan 22:25 PST
Single-handed sailor Elana Connor sails her 10.4m yacht Windfola down the North Island's east coast, past Motukokako Island off Cape Brett © Photo supplied

A change of plans for round-the-world single-handed sailor Elana Connor means she's helping Kiwi kids in foster care to go sailing - as she also seeks to 'demystify' the sport for women.

Elana Connor wears a silver necklace engraved with the word “Fearlessness”. As she sails solo around the globe, it reminds her that her voyage is not about abandoning her fears, but “not letting fear drive the boat”.

It’s an important reminder for someone who gets “anxious and heart-racy and is afraid of everything” - as she makes an unexpected detour in her plans with a figure-eight circumnavigation of New Zealand.

And it's a memento she clung to as she sailed down the rugged, remote west coast of the South Island, barely sleeping as she battled problems with the engine and GPS electronics on her 10.4m yacht, Windfola.

The glitches meant she could only snatch 20 minutes of sleep at a time, before getting up and scouting the horizon for ships, and making sure she wasn’t headed on a collision course with the steep cliffs of Fiordland.

Her sole companion, a tiny rescue dog named Zia, is a great alarm dog when dolphins or whales are in the vicinity – but not an effective replacement for the radius alarm that usually sounds if a ship is approaching (providing Connor's GPS signals are working).

But Connor seems to thrive on challenges, especially at sea. “What I probably love the most about sailing on my own is when you’re out there driving the boat and you’re dealing with a situation, you just have to be in it. The survival instinct kicks in,” Connor says.

“Even in difficult situations, where I’m scared or anxious, the fear doesn’t take over my body as much as it does on shore. When I get close to land I get nervous - it feels dangerous. But out there on the ocean, you just have to keep doing stuff.”

For the full story from Newsroom, click here.

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