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Captain of Her Sail

Reflecting with Emma Richards, who just wanted some solitude, so she set out on a 33,576 mile, 132-day journey called Around Alone race.

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By far the biggest challenge in this racing classic is the stretch of Southern Ocean between New Zealand and South America, culminating in Cape Horn, location of the most treacherous and storm-ridden seas in the world and widely considered the Mount Everest of sailing. Richards passed the Horn at the end of February in the middle of a squall, sailing her fastest recorded speed at 32 knots. From then on it should have been easy, and after a brief respite in Brazil, she sailed north to Newport. But only 200 miles from Newport, she was caught in “a perfect storm,” and the worst of the entire trip. “I sat up all night watching the boat crash off the top of the waves and just praying that the mast would hold itself up,” she remembers. The morning dawned clear and after nearly nine months away, and 120 packages of Birds Eye Potato Waffles, Richards was finally able to relax at the dock, swigging on a magnum of Mumm Champagne.

What’s next? Not solo racing, it would seem. “The race as a whole I did enjoy, and I got to meet lots of great people and lots of great skippers,” she says. “But after you’ve spent 132 days and however many minutes on the sea, it’s just too long.” In the end, it wasn’t the storms, but the solitude that proved too much to handle. Richards’ satellite phone bill was “enormous,” and she is looking forward to sailing with people again. After a party last Sunday night with her family and friends, Richards flew home, safe and dry, and contemplated the ocean from first class, 32,000 feet in the air.
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