The best skippers ... the editor's welcome to the November issue of Yachting Monthly
No male sailor, as far as I know, has ever had petrol poured on their lawn for simply entering a yacht race. But this is exactly what Tracy Edwards endured 30 years ago when she announced her all-female entry into the Whitbread Race.
That level of hostility may now seem unthinkable, but Tracy still had to fight apathy towards women’s sailing to raise funds to rescue her iconic Maiden. Perhaps the causes are different – sponsors looking for exposure, rather than establishment animosity – but these antiquated attitudes should have been ditched long ago. Not only are women competing at the top level; they are also winning. Australian Wendy Tuck recently led her crew to victory in the Clipper Race, followed in second place by British skipper Nikki Henderson. It seems that being a good sailor has little to do with gender after all.
What is remarkable about Tracy Edwards is that she still hasn’t sailed her restored and much-loved Maiden. ‘I love running the project, but I don’t always need to be at the helm,’ she explains.
Charisma is often cited as the hallmark of a leader, but the best leaders are set apart by a lack of ego. Those with true aptitude, whom others will follow, rarely feel the need to claim the limelight.
There is a lesson in this for all of us. Amid a decline in yacht club memberships, could the concept itself, with the implied ‘Members Only’ sign at the gate, be actively turning newcomers away? What if sailing clubs are no longer about privileges for members, but about how those inside can welcome others in, sharing the benefits of sailing that they themselves have so enjoyed? Perhaps then no-one will feel the need to set fire to someone else’s sailing aspirations.