As an Olympic sailor who competes all around the world, Sharon Ferris-Choat knows how hard it is to be away from your family.

But when the Bay of Islands Sailing Week kicks off tomorrow, Ferris-Choat's family will be right beside her as she is joined by her two daughters and her mother as part of the first all-female keelboat crew in event's 17-year history.

Ferris-Choat's record in sailing boasts two Olympics in 1996 and 2004, sailing in the Volvo Ocean Race on all-women's team Amer Sport II and breaking four world records on board Maiden 2 on its voyage around the globe.

Despite her long list of accolades, Ferris-Choat said sailing as the first all-woman crew would be one of the highlights, even though it wasn't a record she expected to receive.


"I'm utterly gutted it's taken 17 years to do it. I didn't even think that record could be remotely possible.

"For me, it was a thank you for Mum for looking after the girls and also so that I could go sailing with the girls instead of leaving them behind."

This would be the first opportunity she has had to take her family out on the boat as her five-year-old daughter, Victoria, had not been old enough to attend previous events.

Now, along with 10-year-old Sofia and her 67-year-old mother, Pauline, Ferris-Choat was keen to get under way.

"It's something I've been thinking of for a while but it's only come as a possibility this year because she wasn't old enough.

"It's pretty special to have three generations, not many sports could say they have that."

The Royal New Zealand Navy will make a comeback in the Navy's Chico 40 sail training vessels at this year's CRC Bay of Islands Sailing Week. Photo / Will Calver
The Royal New Zealand Navy will make a comeback in the Navy's Chico 40 sail training vessels at this year's CRC Bay of Islands Sailing Week. Photo / Will Calver

While the girls were yet to truly catch the sailing bug, Ferris-Choat said this was a great opportunity to teach her daughters new skills like knot tying, weather analysis and the ability to come up with solutions on their own.

"I'm really trying to teach them to make something out of nothing, in that you don't have to go and buy things all the time.


"If they're out somewhere and not with me and they get into trouble or get lost, I would know that they've got the key skills to keep themselves safe."

In 2018, the two-time Olympian was away for four months of the year as she sailed competitively around the world. While she enjoyed sailing at such a high level, Ferris-Choat said it was hard leaving her family.

"It definitely takes a toll because Sofia has to play mum and my husband works full-time and becomes a solo dad."

This year was particularly rough for Ferris-Choat when daughter Sofia broke her arm.

"When you're on the other side of the ocean and you've got a child who's in the hospital and you're missing in action, that's when it's not fun and I struggle."

Despite this, she was grateful for the help of her mother Pauline, who had played a big role in raising the two children while Ferris-Choat was away sailing. Having the four of them together was going to be special moment, she said.

"Mum is still really fit and able and she's so competitive so there is no way someone will be passing us without a challenge.

"It's about showing my girls that women can do anything at any age and you don have to be 20 years old or their grandfather to do this kind of stuff."

This year's sailing week will be the most attended in its history with over 110 crews entered, which has meant an extra division has been made to cope with the excess numbers. The event starts tomorrow and ends on Friday.