Record-setting sailor gives thanks

Imparting wisdom . . . Jeanne Socrates (right) shares her experience and passion for sailing with young Timaru sailors (front, from left) Noah Barrowman, 11, Alba Barrowman, 6, Jet Chetwynd, 10, (middle, from left) Alys Lowe, 17, Violet Adams, 13, Hannah Kane 15, (back, from left) James O’ Connor, 16 and James Illingworth, 17. PHOTOS: CONNOR HALEY

In May 2019, British woman Jeanne Socrates, then 76, was forced to dock at Timaru after damage to her to her 38ft yacht, S/V Nereida, put her recordbreaking attempt in jeopardy.

Five years on Mrs Socrates is undertaking her fifth trip around the world, and has been travelling around New Zealand while her yacht was being repaired in Whanga ¯rei.

She said after her history with Timaru she had to stop by to thank those who had helped her.

‘‘I had a bad knockdown trying to get around Stewart Island, my fifth cape, I had a lot of damage on the boat and I needed to get it repaired.

‘‘I’d come through the Southern Ocean most of the way without my main sail really working and looking up the east coast of New Zealand there wasn’t really anywhere I could go into.

‘‘I looked at Oamaru initially thinking I’d go in there, I spent two days trying to get in but realised it was way too shallow, the next thing up the coast of course was Timaru which was a far bigger harbour.

‘‘With all the help I received here, I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Timaru.’’

She was moored for a week and due to the nature of the record she was unable to receive direct help with repairs.

Fisherman Gordon ‘‘Gordie’’ Mitchell spoke with Mrs Socrates over satellite phone while she conducted repairs.

He said it was an absolute pleasure to finally get to meet her.

‘‘This is the first time I’ve got to physically meet her, I rung her every day while she was in port until she got going so it’s nice to properly be able to see her.’’

Stories at sea . . . As part of her visit to Timaru Jeanne Socrates speaks at the Yacht and Power Boat Club. PHOTO: CONNOR HALEY

While in Timaru last week, Mrs Socrates also spoke at the Timaru Yacht and Power Boat Club, detailing her adventures and inspiring the next generation of young and old sailors alike.

She said her husband was a large driving force in her sailing passion despite not starting until she was 52.

‘‘I started with my husband and we sailed as far as Bonaire in the Caribbean, he had cancer and he died in March 2003.

‘‘I kept him cruising up until then.

‘‘He loved being on the boat, most of the time he was unwell but we thought he might as well be unwell on the boat and at least get out on the sea every now and then,’’ she said.

‘‘After he died I couldn’t think of anything other than being on the boat, there was no question of stopping. I actually scattered his ashes off Bonaire.’’

She said she would continue to sail for as long as she was able.

In September 2023 Mrs Socrates was inducted into the Cape Horn Hall of Fame at Les Sables d’Olonne, France alongside the likes of New Zealand sailor Grant Dalton and Dame Ellen MacArthur.

She recently had a dock named after her in Victoria, British Columbia.

Next on the agenda as she travels around New Zealand is Mount Cook, Christchurch then Nelson.