Female Record Setters

14 Jan

Krystyna Chojnowska-Liskiewicz was the first woman to sail solo around the world 

Claiming to be the first person to do something in sailing can be a tricky business. Like the first person to sail around the world non-stop or the first to sail around the world the wrong way with one hand tied behind their back. I recently made an apparent mistake when I wrote that Naomi James was the first woman to sail around the world single-handed. Not surprisingly I was roundly corrected with an inbox full of derision. Turns out that the first woman to sail around the world solo was a Polish lady by the name of Krystyna Chojnowska-Liskiewicz. She completed her solo loop of the planet in April 1978. Ms Chojnowska-Liskiewicz sailed from the Canary Islands around the world via the Panama Canal. She was aboard her boat named Mazurek, a Conrad 32 sloop built in Poland by her husband. She took off from the Canary Islands on the 20th March, 1978, and returned a little over two years later.

Krystyna was already two thirds of the way around the world when Naomi James set off on the 9th September, 1977 from Devon on the south coast of England. Naomi completed her lap of the planet on the 8th of June whereas Krystyna finished hers a few weeks earlier on April 21. The tricky thing is that Naomi James sailed around Cape Horn and did not take the much shorter course through the Panama Canal. Technically Ms Chojnowska-Liskiewicz can be the one to claim the feat as her own, but I think Naomi James is much more deserving.

Let’s add one more layer to this. The World Sailing Speed Record Council, which is  the body authorized by the International Sailing Federation (ISF) to confirm speed records of sailing crafts, claims that a circumnavigation of the globe for speed record purposes has to start and finish in the English Channel. Naomi James started and finished her voyage in England thereby fulfilling this condition whereas Krystyna did not, however the World Sailing Speed Record Council is about records and not first timers so their regulations do not apply.

Naomi James on her boat Express Crusader

Personally I think that all of these amazing accomplishment are eclipsed by one Jeanne Baré. Yes I am sure that you have never heard of her but she was in fact the first woman ever to circumnavigate the globe when she disguised herself as a man and sailed aboard the Etoile, one of the two ships on a French expedition led by Louis-Antoine de Bougainville. This was clearly back in the days when men were men, and women were also men…

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Brian Hancock – owner Great Circle Sails

This article was syndicated from Great Circle Sails Blog


  1. Skip Simons

    so – – when – did she put on the costume and go for the ride? Great articles from you even if you got your “firsts” mixed up by the participants (not your fault!).

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