1987: Kay Cottee Sets Sail for a Pioneering Voyage Across the Globe

November 29, 1987

Kay Cottee departed from Sydney, Australia, on board the yacht Blackmore’s First Lady for what would become a notable voyage across the globe. When she returned to Sydney Harbour 189 days later, Cottee made history as the first woman to sail around the world solo, non-stop, and without any assistance. Cottee, who had been born into a yachting family in the Sydney area in 1954 and was taken out for her first seafaring trip when she was just a few weeks old, also set a record during that 1987-88 voyage for the fastest sailing trek around the world by a woman. 

After setting sail from Sydney for her circumnavigation of the world, Cottee stayed in radio communication with her family and the Australian media the whole time she was at sea but did not have any in-person contact with other vessels or individuals en route. She used the time alone to quit smoking, read books, and listen to music.

Cottee’s easterly 23,000-mile (37,014.9-kilometer) journey was not without its share of dangers, especially when she sailed around Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America. “It was in mountainous seas breaking in huge waves — just indescribable,” Cottee recalled about that part of the trip. “I thought the boat would roll right over and go down.” Despite the hazards along the way, however, Cottee enjoyed the voyage overall.

Upon returning to Sydney on June 5, 1988, Cottee was greeted by more than 10,000 people. The Oregon-based Register-Guard reported, “Hundreds of small boats dotted the harbor to welcome her home from a trip that she undertook to raise money for Australian children’s charities.” 

Cottee now resides more than 400 miles (643.7 kilometers) northeast of Sydney in the town of Yamba. Her activities include giving motivational speeches and building boats. Since 2000, Blackmore’s First Lady (pictured above) has been on display at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney.  

Photo Credit: sv1ambo (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en)

Additional information on Kay Cottee’s globe-circling voyage in 1987-88 is available at https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=v-hVAAAAIBAJ&pg=6855,1415290&dq=kay+cottee&hl=en

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