Growing up in Wyoming, everyday life was an adventure – I spent my time camping, exploring mountains and competing in rodeos. When I was little, my mom became the state’s first female U.S. Marshall. I’ll never forget the local newspaper headline that read, “Just one of the Boys.” I was enamored that she had been recognized for her success in a field that’s traditionally run by men.
Some might say I’ve followed in her footsteps – I’ve made a name for myself in sailing, a sport often considered “a man’s world.” I’m competing in the Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) – not only the most competitive and dangerous offshore race in the world, but notoriously dominated by male sailors. This year, for the first time in over a decade, there’s an all-female team competing, and I’m lucky enough to be a part of it. With the help of my incredible female teammates, we’re making waves in this race around-the-world.
Sailing is considered a hard-to-break-into sport. And, generally, there are only two ways to get into professional offshore racing – either through a rigorous sailing education that leads to offshore experience or by growing up on the water and racing in the Olympics. Most of my teammates became professional offshore sailors in one of these two ways – but I skipped both.
In the summer of 2008, I went to St. Croix through a college internship program focused on educating locals about HIV and AIDs. There, I discovered my love for the ocean, sailing and later, offshore racing.
Because I grew up in Wyoming, I didn’t know that sailing was a members-only club. That may have been naïve, but it worked in my favor. My lack of fear, positive attitude and passion to get onboard, allowed me to boldly approach anyone who would give me the time of day. This boldness enabled me to gain valuable offshore experience and meet the best in the business.
SCA, a global hygiene company, made the decision to support an all-female team because most of its global retail products are purchased by women. It was a natural choice for SCA to support female empowerment globally, and when they began accepting applications, I knew it was the chance of a lifetime. I was at my peak – young, strong and passionate – I made it my mission to become a part of the team. Even when it seemed like there were no spots left, I never gave up.
After a stressful, two year application process, I finally got the call. I moved to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, and began training with the team immediately. The process was vigorous – physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting, but I had achieved my goal. I made Team SCA and would be sailing in the ‘Everest of sailing’ with only six years of experience under my belt.
Getting here wasn’t easy, but I learned that passion and positivity go far. I’m often asked how I made the team, not only because of my limited experience, but because sailing is considered a male sport. But I didn’t know that, so I didn’t approach it with any hesitation or reserve – instead, I leaned in with everything I had.
As women, we need to approach our dreams as if we deserve to achieve them as much as men, because we do. There are plenty of professions, including sailing, in which women are absent or have a minor presence – but that’s not because they shouldn’t be there. We need to push the boundaries and focus on obtaining our goals and passions, no matter how unobtainable and challenging they may seem.