Living , Modern

Karen

Thorndike

1942 -

Thorndike is a name that may not be familiar to many people, but to the sailing
community, she is known for her remarkable accomplishment of being the first American
woman to sail solo around the world without assistance. Her journey took her 33,000
miles, which she began at the age of 53 and completed in 1998 on a 36-foot yacht
named Amelia, after the famous aviator Amelia Earhart.

Thorndike’s passion for sailing started in the early 1980s when she took some sailing lessons and started racing. She soon became a seasoned sailor and even began
delivering boats from Hawaii to Seattle. During one of these deliveries, her dream of circumnavigating the world began to take shape, but when she confided in a crew member and friend about her plans, he told her that it was impossible and that she had no idea what she would be getting herself into. However, this did not deter her, and she kept her plans to herself until she purchased her own boat.

Thorndike’s around-the-world trip took her two years and two weeks to complete, but it was not a continuous journey. During the trip, she faced many challenges, including a three-month hospitalization for angina pectoris. Despite this setback, Thorndike persevered and eventually accomplished her goal, sailing around the five great capes, which qualified her for the Guinness record. It is worth noting that Tania Aebi was previously recognized as the first American woman to sail around the world alone in 1987, but the recognition was unofficial. Guinness did not recognize her trip for two reasons: first, she went through the Panama Canal, which required assistance, and second, she sailed with a friend for eighty miles while in the South Pacific. Karen Thorndike’s achievement, on the other hand, was
recognized by Guinness, and she was awarded a Guinness World Records certificate.

Thorndike’s accomplishment did not go unnoticed, and she was interviewed for the book “The Heart of Success: Conversations with Notable Achievers” by Dan G. Tripps. In 1999, she was awarded the Cruising Club of America’s Blue Water Medal, a prestigious
award in the sailing world. Today, Karen Thorndike is still alive and resides in Washington State, but her achievement will always be remembered as a testament to the strength, determination, and courage of women in sailing. Her story serves as an inspiration to many, and achievement will undoubtedly inspire future generations of sailors to dream big and pursue their goals, no matter how challenging they may seem.

CNN Article

Sail World Article

[searchandfilter id="7549"]

Preserving America’s Sailing Legacy

Engaging Sailing’s Next Generation


Stay Connected to the National Sailing Hall of Fame