Naomi James Globe Circling First
The 1970s was a decade when women in Britain not only secured greater rights, but also demonstrated by example the idiocy of sex discrimination. Most notably of course Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister in 1979 ; but the year before Naomi James set a sporting record that made it harder for chauvinists to play the weaker sex card.
James, New Zealander by birth but a resident of Devon when she set her record, was in her mid-twenties when she learned to sail, but before she was 30 she had become the first woman to circumnavigate the globe solo (discounting the effort of a Pole who used the Panama Canal and sailed to and from the Canaries contrary to the accepted rules for the feat). She used a yacht borrowed from Chay Blyth , originally The Spirit of Cutty Sark but because of the sponsorship and support she received from The Daily Express renamed Express Crusader.
When she reached Dartmouth harbour just after 9am on June 8 1978 Mrs James – soon made Dame Naomi for her achievement – shaved two days off the record set by Sir Francis Chichester . Following the so-called clipper route she had been at sea for 272 days; had capsized; rounded Cape Horn; and lost her kitten overboard.
As a footnote, the techniques and technology of sailing changed rapidly over the next three decades: on February 7 2005 Ellen Macarthur took the record after a voyage of 71.5 days.
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