Here's our pick of some of the most inspiring yachtswomen. Who's your inspiration?
These 13 women have all achieved excellence as sailors, accomplishing astonishing feats of bravery, stamina and skill at the helm.
From single-handed circumnavigations of the globe to Olympic gold medals, these are some of our favourite female trailblazers in the world of sailing. Who would you add to the list of top female sailors? Tweet us on @ybw
Dame Ellen MacArthur
“Courage is not having the energy to go on, it’s going on when you do not have the energy.”
Dame Ellen MacArthur broke the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe, completing the 27,354 nautical mile trip in 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes and 33 seconds. She beat the previous record by one day, eight hours, 35 minutes and 49 seconds.
The retired British sailor loved life on the water from a young age and has previously competed in the Mini Transat solo transatlantic race and the Vendee Globe solo round-the-world sailing race.
Shirley Robertson, MBE and OBE
This Scottish sailor made it into the history books when she became the first British woman to win two Olympic gold medals at two consecutive Olympic games, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 competing in the Yngling class. She went on to be named female World Sailor of the Year by the International Sailing Federation and was awarded an MBE in 2000 and an OBE in 2005.
Shirley worked hard to raise the profile of the sport, presenting and producing CNN’s Mainsail programme and as a BBC Olympic sailing commentator in Weymouth during the London 2012 Olympics. She is also the only woman to take the helm on the superyacht circuit steering the stunning 45-metre Salperton in three regattas in the Caribbean and Sardina.
Dame Naomi James
“What I did was completely different. Ellen is a professional racer; I was an adventurer.”
Dame Naomi James was the first woman to sail single-handed around the world via Cape Horn. She left Dartmouth in Devon on 9 September 1977 and returned 272 days later on 8 June 1978.
New Zealand-born Naomi was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1979 in recognition of her achievements.
Tracy Edwards, MBE, entered her first Whitbread Round the World race at the age of 23. She made history by leading the first all-female crew to the finish line of the Whitbread Round the World Race on board Maiden in the 89-90 race.
Her 12 crew won two legs and finished second in its class, the best performances in the race by a British boat since 1977.
Edwards is currently busy restoring her beloved Maiden to her former glory.
Clare Francis, MBE, was working in marketing when she decided to sail singlehandedly across the Atlantic in 1973. A year later she took part in the Round Britain Race with Eve Bonham, finishing in third place. The high achiever went on to be the first woman to skipper a yacht in the 1977-1978 Whitbread Round the World Race. She and her Swan 65 finished in 5th place.
To add to her impressive achievements, the former yachtswoman is now an international bestselling author with 12 fiction novels under her belt and four non fiction. She is also a trustee of the charity Action for M.E., which raises money and awareness for sufferers of chronic fatigue syndrome.
“There were moments where I was like, ‘What the hell am I doing out here?,’ but I never wanted to stop.”
At the age of 13, Laura Dekker announced she wanted to become the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe single-handedly, prompting the Guinness World Records to stop recognising records for “youngest” sailors.
The Dutch authorities objected to her plans and she fought a 10-month court battle to follow her dream. She eventually persuaded judges to allow her departure after agreeing to upgrade to a bigger boat with better
navigation equipment, undertake training in first aid and learn how to cope with sleep deprivation.
In August 2010, she set sail on her epic journey onboard her two-masted ketch and arrived, 5,600 nautical miles later, at Simpson Bay on St Maarten in January 2012 – breaking the world record. She was only 16 years and four months of age.
“I’m not really an armchair and slippers person.”
In 2013, British sailor Jeanne Socrates became the oldest woman to sail solo round the world non-stop. This was the 70-year-old’s third attempt to complete the 25,000-mile circumnavigation on her 38ft yacht Nereida.
After 259 days at sea, Jeanne returned triumphant back to British shores. Earlier this year she was awarded with the Cruising Club of America’s Blue Water Medal following her successful voyage.
Pippa Wilson, MBE
Pippa Wilson continues to be one of the UK’s best female sailors. She won a gold medal in the Yngling sailing class at the 2008 Beijing Olympics along with Sarah Webb and Sarah Ayton, gold in two World Championships and gold in one European Championships.
Sarah Ayton, OBE
Olympic gold medallist Sarah Ayton is another of the UK’s most successful British female sailors. With two Olympic gold medals under her belt, along with two gold World Championship medals and one gold European Championship medal.
Sarah won an Olympic gold medal alongside Shirley Robertson and Sarah Gosling in the Yngling sailing class in 2004, and again in 2008 with Pippa Wilson and Sarah Gosling.
Sarah Gosling, OBE
This Olympian is another of Britain’s great female sailors, having won two Olympic gold medals, two gold World Championship medals and one gold European Championship medal.
Sarah won all her medals in the Yngling sailing class alongside Shirley Robertson, Pippa Wilson and Sarah Ayton. Already an MBE, Sarah was awarded an OBE in the 2009 New Year Honours list.
Denise “Dee” Caffari, MBE
Record-setting Dee Caffari came to sailing relatively late after spending five years as a physical education teacher. In 2006, Caffari became the first woman to single-handedly circumnavigate the globe against prevailing winds and currents after 178 days at sea, having started in late 2005.
Just under three years later, in February 2009, Dee Caffari completed the Vendee Globe race, setting a new record and becoming the first woman to sail around the world in both directions.
Kay Cottee, AO
Awarded the Order of Australia, Cottee was the first woman to successfully complete a solo, non-stop, unassisted circumnavigation of the globe. Cottee achieved the feat in 1988 in her 11m yacht Blackmores First Lady, and she did it in just 189 days.
Cottee established the trip that is routinely tried by sailors chasing speed records and completed it alone, without stopping and without assistance. She was even washed overboard when her yacht capsized in 20 foot waves. Her achievement is as impressive as it is daunting to imagine, and fortunately she didn’t celebrate the achievement alone: nearly 100,000 Australians were awaiting her in Sydney Harbour when she returned.
And last, but certainly not least, the first woman to circumnavigate the globe is also a sea captain and shipbuilding engineer. Krystyna Chojnowska-Liskiewicz set off on February 28, 1976 from the Canary Islands on her own in her 10m yacht Mazurek, returning 401 days later on April 21, 1978.
The Polish sailor has been called the “First Lady of the Oceans” and was inducted into the elite Explorers Club in New York. She narrowly beat New Zealander Naomi James (above) who completed her own circumnavigation on June 8, 1978.