Allison and Claire
There are some great women sailors. Isabelle Autissier, the woman who inspired me, was credited by BBC Sports with “smashing sailing’s glass ceiling”. Autissier had the ear of the sailing gods but was bedeviled by astounding bad luck in her Around Alone races. In 1994 after flying past the pack Autissier capsized in the Southern Ocean. She had the same bad luck again in 1999. In 1996 she was disqualified when she needed assistance to repair her broken rudder. Australia’s Kay Cottee, was the first woman to circumnavigate the world alone, non-stop and unassisted. Ellen MacArthur, the current darling of sailing who held the record from February 2005 until early 2008 as the fastest person to round the globe, is a peanut of a young woman at 5′, 2″ and perhaps 110 pounds.
I wonder, how did these women get so good at sailing? Other than the obvious answer of “practice,” I cannot fathom the moxie it would take to head out on a boat, alone no less, to sail around the globe. Very few people can claim a circumnavigation and only a scattering can claim they went it alone. What made these women sailors so different from most women, who are hesitant to go it alone even into an industrial area of a city? What made these women sailors so gutsy?
I do know one fact for certain about each woman. Someone took each of them sailing. Someone let them take the helm. Someone shoved them off alone. Someone waved goodbye as the gap of blue water grew between them. What a wonderful gift they each gave.
This past month we welcomed too smallish girls, Claire and Allison, aboard our boat Bliss. I laughed and joined in the coaxing as Ed cajoled Allison into taking the helm after she said, “No, I don’t want to.” I am sure she liked it and wants to come again. The littler one, Claire, looked so unsure of herself with the tiller in hand, standing so she could see where she was going. Neither of them will likely race the seven seas, and maybe they will never go on another sailboat again, but I hope when they are mature women like me, they will remember that powerful moment when the boat moved at their command.
I will be taking more girls sailing.
* source sports.jrank.org