Kay Cottee, Master of the SeaJune 11, 2014

On June 5, 1988, the Blackmores First Lady docked into Sydney Harbor. A crowd of ten thousand cheered on Kay Cottee, who became the first woman to perform a single-handed, non-stop circumnavigation of the world. Her achievement was no less impressive than what Sir Robin Knox-Johnston did about five decades ago.

It took the native of Yamba, New South Wales 189 days to complete the feat, battling high winds and freezing temperatures. Cottee was even washed overboard when her boat capsized, but showed perseverance. For six months, she had no human contact except through radio, and slept no more than twenty minutes at a time. But solitude was her toughest hurdle, a lesson learned that she could impart to youngsters.

"That they could do anything they chose with their lives if they followed their dreams with dedication and preparation. It didn't matter if they wanted to be a doctor, go into space, or be a writer, or a plumber - they should go for it," she said.

Cottee inherited her love of water from her parents, both sailing aficionados. She and Peter Sutton, her husband, owned a marine in Yamba. They have a son, Lee, who worked in IT, whom she had sailed with. There was no doubt that adventuring was in the genes, which prompted some to ask her about Jessica Watson, who was unoffically the youngest person to sail non-stop and unassisted around the world.

"Jessica did a great job - it is no easy feat for an adult, let alone a child. Unfortunately, due to a small minority taking uncalculated or idiotic risks to gain notoriety, our society has become very risk-averse in all fields of endeavour and there are more regulations restricting young people exploring the world than we've ever had," she said.

On her momentous day: "I remember people - lots of them. I certainly didn't expect the welcome I received. I didn't know what they were all doing there. I remember standing on the bow of the boat after I was told they were there to welcome me, and getting upset because I wanted to thank them all for their support. The friend standing with me said, "Just smile and wave." I think I spent the next 15 to 20 years trying to thank my supporters by charity fundraising and giving motivational talks to schools. So thank you, Australia!"

For her amazing feat, Cottee received the Australian of the Year Award in 1988. She was also appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia the following year. She was the first Aussie to be the recipient of the Cutty Sark Medal, which was presented by the Duke of Edinburgh. Life was never the same ever since, going on tours and writing a book. And she's not done yet.

"Having spent the past three and a half years replumbing, rewiring and rebuilding the interior of my current boat, Leeway, I am planning more sailing. I also paint, sculpt and sew and am playing with another book - an adventure story for kids. The next challenge is to get my new business off the ground - something to do with art, sewing and fabrics," she said.

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