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Global Solo Challenge - Women who marked the history of offshore sailing

by Global Solo Challenge 16 Mar 13:35 PDT
Florence Arthaud © Global Solo Challenge

It may not be very common to see women accepting - or having the opportunity to accept - challenges such as that of sailing single-handed around the world non-stop, but more and more are following in the footsteps of some brave female sailors who broke all sorts of barriers.

Ocean sailing accounts for many great sailors who for one reason or another have earned a place in history. However, it is striking how few female seafarers embark on such great adventures and, in most cases, their little visibility.

It does not take much research to find many female sailors who have left their mark in ocean sailing. United Kingdom and France have been the birth place of the first female pioneers in offshore racing.

If we look for the reasons why only a small number of women, compared to men, have ventured to face the challenge of the oceans we can think of the obvious cultural reasons, seafarers were once exclusively men. The first woman to have circumnavigated of the world was Jeanne Baret from France in 1767 although, in her case, she embarked disguised as a man to be part of an all-men crew.

She was the first and a pioneer. In modern times women were asking for their opportunity despite the lack of trust of boat owners, sponsors, race organisers and even some co-skippers in crewed events.

Among these there have been may true heroines, strong women and great sailors, who left their mark in the history of navigation of the twentieth century. Their jaw-dropping feats left the ocean community in disbelief as in the case of Naomi James from New Zealand, the first woman to sail around the world non-stop and single-handed.

Looking at other Heroines with a capital letter the names of Isabelle Autissier and Florence Arthaud immediately spring to mind, two very strong, determined and capable women.

Frenchwoman Isabelle Autissier was the symbol of a generation, the first woman to complete in a round-the-world single-handed yacht race, the BOC Challenge in 1990-1991 first the legendary Vendée Globe soon after. Isabelle famously answered an interviewer's question asking about her achievement after a race by saying: "I only ignored any gender limits."

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