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Celebrating Women’s History Month: Thora Lund Robinson and the First Bermuda Race to Today’s female skippers

March 20, 2024

By Kate Somers


In honor of Women's History Month, we shine a spotlight on a remarkable woman whose adventurous spirit and determination made history in the world of sailing. Thora Lund Robinson at age 20, aboard the yacht Gauntlet, participated in the inaugural Bermuda Race in 1906, leaving a legacy that resonates to this day.

The first race was organized by the Brooklyn Yacht Club and spurred by English yachting enthusiast Sir Thomas Lipton's generous £100 Cup donation, it was considered a bold endeavor that faced significant criticism and public scrutiny. Under the leadership of Commodore Ambrose Gosling, the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club orchestrated the finish line and post-race festivities, demonstrating a commitment to fostering camaraderie and excellence in sailing.

Amidst the skepticism and controversy surrounding the race, three courageous yachts—LilaTamerlane, and Gauntlet with Robinson onboard—braved the start line in Gravesend Bay on May 26, 1906. Unfortunately, Lila encountered rigging damage early on, prompting her return to shore. Tamerlane, skippered by Race Founder Thomas Fleming Day, persevered through a 5-day, 6-hour, and 9-minute passage to Bermuda.

Meanwhile, Thora Lund Robinson aboard Gauntlet faced her own set of challenges. Caught in a gale within the treacherous Gulf Stream, Gauntlet endured a stormy passage, veering far east of the intended route to the islands. Despite the adversity, Thora and her crew's seamanship prevailed, and she was at the helm across the finish line. 

As we celebrate Women's History Month, let us honor not just the trailblazers like Thora Lund Robinson, whose courage and passion for sailing continue to inspire generations. As of today, 10 women are listed of Skippers during the Newport Bermuda Race, and over 100 women are expected to participate.

The history of the Race through 2004 is told in the book A Berth to Bermuda, published by the Cruising Club of America and Mystic Seaport, written by John Rousmaniere, and is available online. Select chapters, including this one about the First Thrash, are available on our website.

Get to know some of the 2024 women at the helm: (According to their team profiles on bermudarace.com)

Lynn McClaskey, Cimarron:
"This girl from Oklahoma crewed on the Annapolis to Bermuda race ten years ago. I was immediately hooked on offshore racing, so I bought a boat to do just that. Now, after 4 Annapolis Newport races, 4 Annapolis Bermuda races, and one Marblehead Halifax Race, I'm ready to try Newport Bermuda!"


Tori Willauer, Breezing Up:
"Breezing Up will race again in the Newport Bermuda Race with an all-family crew of 8! This will be our 6th race as a team."

Nathalie Criou, Envolee
"Nat is the team's scrappy and resilient skipper. Sinking in the middle of the Pacific after a collision with a sperm whale did not diminish her appetite for the ocean."


Mary Martin, Alliance
"We are happy to return for our 2nd Bermuda Racing on J122 Alliance USA 52770. The challenge and opportunity to bring on youthful racers has made this an awesome opportunity."

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