Two of Northland's top women sailors are sailing 7000km through the Pacific Ocean as part of a global sailing campaign on Maiden, the first Whitbread Round the World Race yacht with an all-female crew.

Olympian Sharon Ferris-Choat, from Kerikeri, and Rebecca Gmuer Hornell, from Russell, sailed from Auckland for Hawaii on Sunday as part of Maiden's global campaign boosting education for 130 million girls across the world who do not go to school.

Pioneering British yachtswoman Tracy Edwards MBE, created the two-year Maiden Factor campaign, which began from England in September last year. It is supported by Princess Haya bint Al Hussein of Jordan, daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan who helped fund Maiden in the 80s.

Edwards wrote a new chapter in sailing history 30 years ago by skippering Maiden with the world's first all-women round-the-world race sailing crew, winning two of the race's five legs and arriving into Auckland in 1989. The sailors broke new ground in a male-dominated sport where Edwards was told women couldn't achieve.


Two-time Olympian Ferris-Choat, 45, has already been in two round-the-world sailing challenges with Edwards. She co-skippered Maiden on its Sydney-Auckland leg last month and is co-skippering the yacht to Hawaii.

Gmuer Hornell, at 19, is the youngest crew member, sailing on the 18m yacht on her first offshore campaign. She is a Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron youth training programme graduate, a sailing coach and works as a yacht rigger.

The two Northland sailors have been inspired by the against-the-odds achievements of the original Whitbread Round the World Race crew led by Edwards, who arrived back in New Zealand for the first time since 1989 in time to farewell Maiden from Auckland on her newest campaign.

Funds from 29 scheduled stops around the world, en route to San Francisco, are going towards girls' education through selected charities. The Auckland–Hawaii leg is expected to take three weeks.

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