“The question you ask yourself is, will I do this thing as you've planned, and hoped, and have dreamed about doing, and the answer is the act of doing it.”
These are the words of yachtswoman Judith Lawson, in the film American Challenge, a documentary about the American competitors in the 1980 edition of the OSTAR, the Original Single-handed Trans-Atlantic Race. Her words echo through my head so often these days that I have adopted them as my own.
Lawson is the only American woman to have ever started in this legendary race, which has been happening every four years since 1960. She is shown later in the film, just after her mast has fallen down, resulting in her retirement from the race. “I don't want to be a heroine,” she says tearfully. “I just want to survive.” She managed to do both, and in just over a month I intend to follow in her wake, racing non-stop, single-handed from Plymouth UK to Newport RI, U.S. My hope and dream is that I will succeed and become the first American woman to have finished the OSTAR.
But first I need to get to the start, which many competitors say is the hardest bit of all. I have only owned my boat, Zest, for just under three months. I left my job just under two months ago to spend all my time (and money) working towards this ambitious goal. Zest is in pieces in a boat yard in Cowes. My partner Rupert and I, with help from numerous friends, are working flat out to transform Zest into a solo racing machine. Once she's back in the water, our next challenge will be to transform me into a solo racing skipper. The required qualifying cruise of 500 miles should go a good way towards accomplishing that. And then it should be time to get the boat to Plymouth and load her up with provisions.
It's going to be a wild ride, and I look forward to sharing it with you.
— Kass Schmitt