Looking back on a remarkable career, Tracy Edwards revealed that she had to overcome seasickness before going on to conquer the world of sailing.
As a youngster, skippering the first all-female crew in the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race seemed like a long way off for Edwards.
Still finding her way in the world, having been expelled from school, Edwards's first taste of the open seas was not a positive one. However, speaking to Sue Anstiss MBE on The Game Changers Podcast - a podcast telling the stories of trailblazing women in sport - Edwards said once she had conquered her initial unease, starting out on a path that would see her become the first woman to receive the Yachtsman of the Year Trophy was something she needed to find.
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"The first time I guess I ever went sailing was with my dad when I was eight in a little boat from Hayling Island to the Isle of Wight and I just threw up the whole time and I thought, well that’s something I’ll never be doing again, sailing, that’s off my list of things to do," she said. "But then of course when I got offered a job as a stewardess on this beautiful charter yacht in Greece, to sail around the Mediterranean for the summer, I was like, Oh I’ll give this another go!
"It was just something I thought I’m going to have to overcome because I want to do this and for me it wasn’t necessarily an instant love of the sea or sailing or anything like that, it was these amazing people. This group of people that I had ended up with. None of us had gone through yacht clubs and dinghies or anything like that, we just ended up on boats. And for me it was the people, I felt accepted for the first time I think in my whole life at that point really.
I just had to manage the seasickness which I ended up doing. Then my love of the ocean developed and my appreciation of just what I was able to do.
Edwards was anything but a natural. Navigation, such a key component of sailing, was something else she had to pick up along the way.
"So the second trans-Atlantic I ever did, the skipper looked at me, and he said 'can you navigate?' I said, of course I can’t navigate! I was expelled from school before long division! So he said to me 'don’t you think you should be able to navigate, do the things that you need to do on a boat to keep yourself safe?' I said, well, you navigate. And he said 'what if I fall over the side? I’m like, There’s two other guys on the boat, I don’t know!
He said to me 'why are you being a bystander in your own life?' And it was one of the most profound things anyone had ever said to me. Within two days he taught me to navigate and to me that was so extraordinary and it was another piece of proof I needed that. Maybe I’m not this useless waste of space and I can contribute."
From then on in, it was just success story after success story. Edwards spent three years assembling the Whitbread’s first all-female team. Funding was hard to come by, so she refinanced her house and bought a used fifty-eight-foot aluminium yacht called Prestige, which she renamed Maiden.
Nothing has come easy, and in a male dominated world, the struggle for recognition has been tough.
"It’s like the men who argue that equality and feminism makes him less," she added. "It’s that complete lack of understanding that if we are all equal, we are better and equality is better for all of us. I don’t understand men with daughters that say things like that.
"It’s as if they are in a separate world. And it’s this, I think just this complete lack of understanding that equality doesn’t make you less.
"it was like we’d intruded into the big man shed at the bottom of the garden – the ultimate man shed at the bottom of the garden - and as if in some way our taking part in the race made it less than. And I don’t know why. I guess we proved that it’s maybe not as rufty-tufty as they would like people to believe and that if women can do it, people will know that it’s not this."
The Game Changers is available across all platforms including apple podcasts, Spotify, Google and Stitcher, or you can listen here - https://pod.fo/e/a1138
You can find out more about all 41 guests from this and previous series at fearlesswomen.co.uk/thegamechangers
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