Top 10 Female Sailors in History

Top 10 Female Sailors in History

To celebrate International Women’s Day, let’s take a look at 10 of the World’s most famous female sailors of all time, in alphabetical order.

Krystyna Chojnowska-Liskiewicz 

Born 15 July 1936, in Poland, Krystyna Chojnowska-Liskiewicz is the first woman to have sailed single-handed (solo) around the world. “First Lady of the Oceans” sailed from the Canary Islands on 28 March 1976, and returned there on 21 April 1978, completing a circumnavigation of 31,166 nautical miles (57,719 km) in 401 days. This journey narrowly beat New Zealander Naomi James who completed her own circumnavigation on June 8, 1978.


Kay Cottee

Awarded the Order of Australia, Kay Cottee was the first woman to successfully complete a solo, non-stop, unassisted circumnavigation of the globe. Cottee achieved this in 1988 in her 11m yacht Blackmores First Lady, in just 189 days. Not only she completed the task alone, without stopping, and without assistance, she was even washed overboard when her yacht capsized in 20-foot waves.

Laura Dekker

Born 20 September 1995, Laura Dekker is a New Zealand-born Dutch sailor. When she was 13 years old, she announced that she wanted to become the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe single-handed. After the local authorities objected, a Dutch court prevented Laura from departing while under shared custody of both her parents. In July 2010, a Dutch family court ended this custody arrangement, and the record-breaking attempt finally began on 21 August 2010. Dekker successfully completed the solo circumnavigation in a 12.4-meter (40 ft) two-masted ketch named Guppy, arriving in Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten, 518 days later at the age of 16.

Naomi James

Born 2 March 1949 in New Zealand, Dame Naomi Christine James is the first woman to have sailed single-handed around the world via Cape Horn, and the second woman to have ever sailed solo around the world after Krystyna Chojnowska-Liskiewicz James departed Dartmouth, Devon on 9 September 1977 and finished her voyage around the globe on 8 June 1978 after 272 days, thus improving Sir Francis Chichester’s solo round-the-world sailing record by two days.


Ellen MacArthur

Born 8 July 1976, the English now-retired sailor Dame Ellen MacArthur broke the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe, completing the 27,354 nautical mile trip in 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes, and 33 seconds. She beat the previous record by one day, eight hours, 35 minutes, and 49 seconds. Francis Joyon, the male Frenchman who had held the record before MacArthur, was able to recover the record again in early 2008, though.

Galia Moss

Born in Mexico, Galia Moss became the first Latin American woman to sail across the Atlantic Ocean alone in 2006. She did it in 41 days, which allowed her accomplishment to get listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. The attempt had also a philanthropic cause: Thanks to a collaboration with an NGO, Moss was able to donate a home to a Mexican family for every eight nautical miles she navigated. In total, she was able to donate 644 homes.

Grace O’Malley

Born in Ireland around 1530, Grace O’ Malley is considered one of the best female sailors in the World ever. Despite having a brother, upon the death of her father, Eoghan Dubhdara, it was Grace who took over active leadership of the “Ó Máille” lordship by land and sea to protect the west Ireland region from the growing threat of the English crown. Her extraordinary career earned her the nickname, “The Pirate Queen”. She was better than most of his male counterparts at her prime and is considered the greatest female ‘pirate’ of the world ever.

Shirley Robertson

Born 15 July 1968, Shirley Ann Robertson is a British sailor and Olympic gold medalist. The Scottish sailor made it into the history books by becoming the first British woman to win two Olympic gold medals at consecutive games, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004. Shirley was named female World sailor of the Year by the International Sailing Federation in 2000. She is also the only woman to take the helm on the superyacht circuit steering the stunning 45-meter Salperton in three regattas in the Caribbean and Sardina.


Jeanne Socrates

It’s already an almost impossible task to circumnavigate the world single-handed. Imagine you do it when you’re 70 years old! Born 17 August 1942, the British yachtswoman Jeanne Socrates became the oldest female to have circumnavigated the world single-handed in 2013. The record still stands. She is also the only woman to have circumnavigated solo nonstop from N. America. This 259- days-long journey at sea earned her the Cruising Club of America’s Blue Water Medal and the Royal Cruising Club Medal for Seamanship.

Skipper Thuridur

Born in 1777, Skipper Thuridur is one of the world’s earliest female sailors. She was only 11 years old when she joined her father’s fishing crew to become a sailor. Her perfect skills of especially rowing and steering of heavy wooden open boats made her one of the most efficient fishing captains in the world. Her ability to sail in all sea conditions helped her not to lose a single crew for many years. Thuridur, who died at the age of 86, is one of the spectacular figures in Icelandic maritime history. 

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