Home Nautical News Ladies First: Female Skippers Make Clipper History

Ladies First: Female Skippers Make Clipper History

by Eva Seelye

Nikki Henderson (left) and Wendy Tuck (right)This year’s Clipper Round the World Race was unprecedented, plowing an unforgettable wake in Clipper history. After 11 months and 40,000 miles, Sanya Serenity Skipper Wendy Tuck, 53,(pictured right) was the first woman ever to win the circumnavigation race. Visit Seattle Skipper Nikki Henderson, 25,(pictured left) cruised into Royal Albert Dock, Liverpool, UK in second place, which secured a female podium and a legendary record year of racing.

It was a close finish with Henderson, the youngest-ever Clipper Race skipper, falling just short of the overall win even after Visit Seattle played their Joker Card (a point-doubling device). “You were just too quick for us!” says Henderson to Tuck. “We didn’t get the win but I am so proud of how my team dug deep and kept fighting right until the end. No matter how hard it got, they turned up on deck ready to work and deserve every bit of this success in coming second.”

The Clipper race is regarded as one of the most challenging races in the world. Not only are these sailors crossing six oceans and navigating the coasts of six continents, but 40 percent of racers have no prior sailing experience. Crew members from 18 to 76 years old sail head first into phenomenal sea states with 45-foot-high waves, hurricane force winds, extreme freezing and heat conditions, and boat speeds up to 35 knots. Visit Seattle crew member and Seattle nurse Shannon Dean, 53, remembers some of the challenges she and her crew faced on board. “I think about all that we’ve been through and even during the hurricanes, when we were completely astonished by the big waves, we’d all start laughing as if what we were seeing was beyond belief. But I truly believe that anyone could do this race if they set their mind to it.” Dean also expresses her level of respect for Henderson, “She’s made our team a family and after this success I think she can do whatever she sets out to achieve.”

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, 79; the first man to sail solo, non-stop around the world and founder of the Clipper Race, remarks on the possible impact of Henderson and Tuck’s achievements. He states, “The impact of the success of both Wendy and Nikki cannot be underestimated. If this gets even one more girl to start sailing and dreaming big, then I’ll consider everything we have done over the last eleven months a huge success.”

With Sail Like a Girl dominating the Race to Alaska (R2AK) and two women skippers making Clipper history, this year is one for the ladies. These feats are inspiration to people everywhere.

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