Sweet Water Roots – Salt Water Dreams
Published: Friday, March 2, 2018
By: Ken Quant
Sometimes sailing is just in your blood. This is certainly the case for young Alison Kent. Raised in a family of Lake Michigan sailors, she has pretty much been sailboat racing since birth. Her family were regular fixtures on the local race circuit and her father, Tim Kent, even skippered an Antrim Open 50 named Everest Horizontal to a 2nd place finish in the 2002-2003 Around Alone race.
Having been around boats her whole life, Alison was able to hone her sailing skills at an early age through the family races and local youth sailing programs. With her background of sailing in the often-tough conditions of the Great Lakes and her recent experience working as a rare woman-sailmaker in New Zealand, it’s no wonder Alison was recently selected as one of the four promising female sailors to join The Magenta Project’s 2017 Sydney to Hobart race entry.
The Magenta Projects is an international organization established to provide top level sailing opportunities to some of the brightest and most promising women sailors from around the world. According to their mission statement: The Magenta Project is a collective of passionate, committed female sailors on a mission to accelerate women in sailing and industry by creating pathways, empowering leadership and driving change. Towards that goal, the Magenta Project is sponsoring the first all-female crew in 16 years in this year’s Sydney to Hobart race.
A notoriously tough test of sailors and boats alike, the 628-mile sprint from the Australian mainland to the island state of Tasmania is renowned for its huge seas, brutal winds, and stunning coastal scenery. The 2017 event has 107 yachts entered, including 30 internationals and four supermaxis. As tradition dictates, the race starts from Sydney Harbor on Boxing Day, December 26th, heading out towards the Tasman Sea past Sydney Head. A summer sight to behold, the race fleet is surrounded by thousands of spectator boats as they sail up the harbor towards open water.
The four selected Magenta Project sailors will round out an 8-woman crew racing Lisa Blair’s modified Open 50 named Climate Action Now. A highly accomplished sailor herself, Lisa recently proved you don’t have to be a dude to be a tough sailor by becoming the first female to solo-circumnavigate Antarctica. Joining the team as co-skipper will be Libby Greenhalgh, navigator of Team SCA in the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15. Two other highly experienced offshore professional racers fill out the core crew. Together, these experienced women will help mentor the new crew on the rigors of offshore racing and the importance of teamwork.
Over 170 applications from all over the world were submitted for the four apprentice crew positions. Of all those entries, Alison was selected to join the elite crew. Experience was important, but even more than that was an applicant’s professional motivation. According to Alison, “They asked for experience, but more about what you wanted to do with your sailing in the future, why you wanted to do the race, and what being a woman in sailing meant to you. It was clear they were looking for motivated women who needed a pathway to extend their sailing and were pushing to get ahead.”
These positions were not just for the young. Each of the four available spots were earmarked to tap into a wide cross-section of women sailors across four categories including; Youth, Emerging Professional, Wild Card, and Mature Sailor. Alison is the Emerging Professional. According to Blair, “It has been great to see so many amazing women from all around the world apply. The applications were varied with many different experience levels and age ranges with the youngest being 18 and the oldest above 65. I look forward to working with and sharing some of my knowledge to the successful applicants and I hope to continue to offer opportunities like this in the future.”
Certainly, for Alison, opportunities abound. No matter if she becomes a true offshore racing professional, or a sailing industry lifer, I have no doubt that her sweet water roots will almost undoubtedly lead her to a lifetime of salt water dreams.