What have these four Kiwi women got in common? A 38 year old mother of two; a much-travelled gourmet chef; a one-time shop-assistant, waitress and deckhand; and a New Zealand amateur golf rep, turned US Army sergeant, turned lawyer?
Answer: ‘Maiden’, the first yacht with an all-women crew to compete in the Whitbread Round the World Race, which first arrived in Auckland 30 years ago to a rapturous welcome after capturing a second leg win in its class.
The legendary boat has been back in Auckland, the City of Sails, for a month as part of a two and a half year voyage around the world to raise awareness and funds for girls’ education and left on Sunday 9th June with four new Kiwi crew for the next leg to Honolulu.
All four were inspired by the against-the-odds achievements of the original crew led by Tracy Edwards, Maiden’s skipper and founder of the Maiden Factor, who arrived back in New Zealand for the first time since her triumphant arrival in 1989.
During that Auckland stopover Sir Peter Blake presented Tracy with the UK’s Yachtsman of the Year award, the first female winner in its 34 year history, as the male-dominated sailing media ate huge helpings of humble pie.
On Sunday she oversaw the departure of Maiden, with renowned Kiwi Olympic and round the world race sailor Sharon Ferris-Choat, co-skipper alongside Australian Wendy Tuck, first female winner of a round the world race, with the four new Kiwi recruits.
Natasha Fickling is the mother of two who grew up cruising on sail boats with her family around the Hauraki Gulf and has sailed on and off ever since. The Maiden experience is part of her future plan to sail around the world with her husband and children.
The much-travelled gourmet chef is 55 year old Jo Ivory; she has worked on a huge variety of yachts all over the world and is currently a First Mate with the New Zealand Sailing Trust on Sir Peter Blake’s Steinlager 2 – which famously took line honours in all six legs in the 1989-90 Whitbread – and Lion New Zealand alongside which Maiden is moored. Both boats provided an escort when Maiden left the Waitemata Harbour.
Rebecca Gmuer Hornell from Northland has an extraordinarily long and varied resume for a 19 year old. The graduate from the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron’s renowned Youth Training Programme has raced a huge range of boats and is now a sailing coach herself and a rigger.
Completing the quartet is 36 year old Natalie Bratkowski, the golfer, lawyer and armourer now looking to add Yachtmaster to her CV using the 3,800+ sea miles on Maiden to Hawaii to reach the target.
The leaving ceremony was held at the Viaduct Harbour in Auckland involved school children from all over New Zealand; a traditional Maori ‘Karakia’, a prayer, read by 8 year old Annabelle Kline from Mercury Bay; the Maiden Factor “Message of Hope” handover and the New Zealand Sailing Trust who arranged for the school children to be on board Steinlager 2 and Lion New Zealand to escort Maiden from the dock.