LYMINGTON professional sailor Abby Ehler’s dream of becoming the first woman to be part of a winning Volvo Ocean Race have been dashed after the closest-ever finish to the prestigious around-the-world event.
Boat captain Abby and her Team Brunel boat finished third after the gruelling 45,000-mile race after being pipped at the post in a thrilling final 970-mile leg.
Heading into the 11th and final leg from Gothenburg, Sweden to The Hague, Team Brunel had been tied on points with the China-backed Dongfeng and Spanish team MAPFRE. Agonisingly for Abby, in the final 30 miles of the nine-month race Dongfeng, with two women Carolijn Brouwer and Marie Riou part of their crew, overhauled its rivals to top the podium.
Abby, who lives in Lymington with her husband and young son, was sailing in her third Volvo Ocean Race. She was the boat captain and bowman on Amer Sports Too in 2001-02 under her maiden name of Seager and sailed aboard SCA in the 2014-15 race. Since the completion of the last Volvo Ocean Race, Abby has been working in on-shore logistics for the America’s Cup organisation.
Abby told the A&T: “It has been a lifetime ambition to compete in the Volvo Ocean race and to finish on the podium is beyond my wildest dreams, so I am extremely happy with the final result.
“It was hard to pull together such a comeback in the last few legs, then to be just four miles away when Dongfeng finished. Although disappointed that we couldn’t continue our winning momentum, I take great pride in our accomplishment.”
Throughout the nine-month race, Abby has been juggling her sailing commitments with raising her son. She added: “It has been a little different this race with my six-year-old son Harley at school, so I have been travelling back and forth during stopover time.”
Sadly, the race will be remembered for the death of Briton John Fisher, who was lost at sea during the leg from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai in Brazil. The 47-year-old, sailing for the Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag team, fell overboard 1,400 nautical miles west of Cape Horn and was never found.
The Volvo Ocean Race, which began in 1973 as the Whitbread Round-the-World Race, now takes place every three years.