Today, September 26, the International Maritime Organisation celebrates World Maritime Day – which this year focuses on women in the maritime community.
On October 3 2018, British sailor Jenny Socrates left the Royal Victoria Yacht Club in Canada for her second attempt to sail solo, non-stop around the world. Just under a year later, on September 7 2019, her yacht Nereida returned home – skipper and vessel in triumph. At 77, she had just become the oldest person in the world to circumnavigate the globe solo, non-stop and without assistance.
Ms Socrates (above) joins the ranks of women who have made great achievements in sailing.
Another Brit, Ellen MacArthur, broke time records crossing the Atlantic in monohull and trimaran vessels, before guiding her trimaran B&Q/Castorama to the faster single-handed, non-stop circumnavigation in 2005.
Dutch Laura Dekker (pictured below) decided at the age of just 13 that she wanted to become the youngest person to circumnavigate the world. She had to take on the Dutch authorities before she was allowed to embark – but achieved her dream in 2016, still age only 16 years and four months.
Australia’s Kay Cottee completed her solo, non-stop unassisted circumnavigation in 1988 in the yacht Blackmores First Lady, after 189 days at sea and despite being washed overboard en route. She was the first woman to achieve this feat.
And Polish sailor Krystyna Chojnowska-Liskiewicz (below) followed in the footsteps of Joshua Slocum between 1976 and 1978 with a stopping voyage, becoming the first woman to sail solo around the world.
Yet, according to Joe Cline, editor of 48° North, while the perception of women in sailing is improving, there’s still a long way to go.
He writes: “Sailing is still a male dominated activity and industry. The male-as-skipper, female-as-first-mate dynamic, which admittedly works well for some, is still too prevalent and is far too often the default assumption”.
Mr Cline’s concerns are borne out by the statistics. One report on Pip Hare’s preparations for the 2020 Vendee Globe race, notes that fewer women have sailed single-handed, non-stop and unassisted around the world than people have walked on the moon.
There’s a much fuller roll-call of famous female sailors on the YBW website here. For a brief history of women and the sea, visit the Mariners Museum site here. There’s also a thriving Facebook group worth connecting with, called Women Who Sail.