part of a team in school, never reallyplayed any team sports... but that expe-rience really raised my self-esteemabout a 100 levels, because it was rock bottom at that point. I thought I wasworthless, valueless... Couldn’t stick toanything, couldn’t achieve anything...didn’t seemed to have pleased anyonein my life... this was my first opportuni-ty really to be a part of something thatwas good.
From stewardess to skipper?
I guess I was very lucky and had goodmentors on the boats I worked on. I hadskippers who saw something in me thatI didn’t really see in myself, and whoreally pushed me.So after few years of being a stew-ardess, I meet a guy who says you cando so much more, why don’t you learnto navigate, and I learnt to navigate.And the next person said ‘you can be areally good sailor’... and then one of myskippers said I should get into long dis-tance racing and that I would be reallygood at it.So I went and did my first round theworld race when I was 21.
How many women were on the crew?
Only me, with 17 men. Becausewomen did not, simply did not, sail on big boats at that time. There were 250crew in that race and only three of them women.It was tough. They did not want meon the boat. I think for them it washugely embarrassing to have a womanon the boat and all the other guys took the mickey out of them.But I didn’t really see things fromthat point of view, and I saw thingsfrom my point of view. And I wanted to be on the boat, and I thought I should be allowed to. It was not an ideal situa-tion, but it taught me that I was capableof doing that, and if I was capable of doing that, then other women werecapable as well.I finished the race and started to putMaiden together when I was 22, in1986, which was the first all femalecrew to race around the world. When Iskippered the Maiden I was 24, andwas the youngest skipper to have donethe Whitbread. I was the first femaleskipper and we were the first femalecrew – there were 12 of us.
Was it tough to get 12 women?
We had over 400 applications. We cut itdown to about 100. And then we triedto mix and match. Went sailing withpeople. In the end, what made the teamwas personality. And team spirit.Rather than qualifications. None of uswas qualified. None of us really had aclue what we were doing.That in itself was an advantage, because we had no one in the boat say-ing ‘I have never done it like that before; I’ve always done it like this.’We had none of that. What we hadwas ‘How should we do this? Shouldthis work? Lets try that...’It was much more of a democracy onthe boat.There were times, having said that,when you had to have a dictatorship onthe boat, where the skipper’s word waslaw. Because if you are in the southernocean and you’ve got 50ft waves and80knot winds, and everyone is afraidthey are going to die, the last thing theyneed to hear is the skipper saying,‘What do you thing we should do now.’We had the best crew, what we lackedin experience, we made up for in com-mitment, excitement, drive and theunderstanding that we all had to get ontogether, and also a lack of egos onthe boat.
How different will Oryx Quest befrom the other round the world races...
From the navigator’s point of view itwill be interesting, as this route has not been done before. Because the tacticswill be different. It will start in Dohaand go down through the IndianOcean... and this bit of ocean has never been raced before, at least by these boats. It will go down to the bottom of the world, turn left at Australia, goround the Antarctic and underneathSouth America, Cape Horn. The next bit again will be interesting. Normallywe turn left and go up to the UK, butthis time we go round the Cape of GoodHope and back to Doha.
How many female crew members doyou expect in this race?
None on the other boats. ‘Qatar’ boat(earlier owned and managed byEdwards) may have a mixed crew.Brian Thomson will be the skipper of the ‘Qatar’ boat, whom I think is the best multi-hull skipper in the world.And Brian has two women on his crew.He said to me when he took over ‘Areyou going to interfere with the crew?’ Isaid absolutely not, but it must be amixed crew.
Pe r s o n a l i t y
By Vani Saraswathi
fter her first time at sea with herfather, a totally seasick, sevenyear old Tracy Edwards, vowednever to get on a boat again. Ten yearslater, she found herself on a yacht, inlove with the ocean and the sailor’s life.Soon she was breaking and settingrecords at ease.In 1998, Edwards brought togetheran all-girl crew for an attempt at the Jules Verne Trophy – the world recordfor a yacht circumnavigating the globe.Tracy and her crew were on course tocapture the record when after 43 gru-elling days at sea, their catamaran losther mast in the most treacherous oceanin the world. Now retired from sailingand involved in managing yachts andracing events, Edwards says she will go back and complete the unfinished busi-ness of her record circumnavigation.Now the director of QuestInternational Sports Events, preparingfor the first major ocean racing eventQatar will host – Oryx Quest, Edwardstakes time off to chat with
From hating the sea to a record-break-ing sailor, how did that journey comeabout?
I got expelled from school when Iwas 15 and my mother thought travel-ling might be a very good experiencefor me. After backpacking aroundEurope, I ended up working in Greece.And someone I met asked me if I would be interested in working on his boat. To be a stewardess, do some washing andcleaning. I tried that, and just fell inlove with the ocean.I was 17 then, and there were sevenof us on the team. And for me that wasthe first time anyone had ever trustedme with responsibility and the firsttime I had ever been included in a teamof people. I have never really been a
Passion for the Ocean