Expelled from school aged 15, the last thing record-breaking skipper Tracy Edwards MBE ever expected was to shatter the glass ceiling. Little did she know that in a few short years, she would not only make history at the helm of the first all-female crew of the 1989-90 Whitbread Round the World Race, but that she would help change the face of women in sport for future generations. While Tracy makes light of the long list of accolades, the story of how she became the first woman in the history of the Whitbread Round the World Race to win the coveted Yachtsman of the Year trophy is nothing short of inspirational.
Tracy maintains she fell into sailing. Leaving home at 16, she backpacked around Europe and found herself in Greece working in a bar where a customer asked if she wanted a job on his charter boat. The first of many moments of synchronicity in Tracy’s life began with a stop in Martha’s Vineyard and a lasting encounter with King Hussein of Jordan. She learned how to navigate in two days and decided she needed to expand her horizons – which led to the Whitbread Round the World Race.
She faced numerous knockbacks but finally enlisted as cook of Atlantic Privateer, sailing the 1985-86 race. Out of 230 crew members, she was one of only four women in the entire race. Crossing the finish line, she knew she had to do something to change things.
“It’s funny looking back on it now. I don’t know what I was thinking,” she laughs. “For me, the idea of Maiden was purely selfish. I remember thinking no man was ever going to let me go as a navigator on his boat. It was never going to happen. My mum was the one who said to me: ‘If you don’t like the way the world works, don’t moan about it – change it’.”
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