Female solo sailor narrowly averts disaster

Margaret Williams
. .
Solo sailor Margaret Williams’ second bid at becoming the first woman to circumnavigate Australia solo, non-stop and unassisted almost came to an untimely end with a severe storm off the south-west coast of Tasmania.

'I’m just so happy to be alive, it was all looking very bad,' she said. 'I’d
practically just finished crossing the Southern Ocean to Tasmania when my
weathermen advised me that a severe front was approaching and I should seek
anchorage.

The Queensland doctor who set off from Fremantle on 2 June to break one of sailing’s last standing records came perilously close to losing her 12-metre sloop ‘Against All Odds’ to cliffs and reef at Port Davey.

'It became a real race against time: I was surfing at breakneck speeds down
huge 30 foot waves trying to beat the storm.

'There were 60 knot gusts at this stage and they pushed me across the bay towards the cliffs and reef.

'I couldn’t get the anchor to hold so I was waiting for the boat to go ‘crunch’ and was trying to figure out how to climb the cliffs. In the end, it took me seven hours to get anchored.

'It was absolute mayhem down below – there was food everywhere, eggs all over the floor. Waves had filled up the front cabin with icy water.

'Most of my wind instruments blew off the mast – it’s all guesswork from now
on – I have to go outside to see where the wind is coming from.'

Margie’s father, Charlie Williams, who has been vigilantly manning a ‘command post’ from his Sunshine Coast home said 'excellent seamanship' saved his daughter’s life.

'I always knew she had plenty of guts, she’s a very determined, indomitable character,' he said. 'She’s pursuing a dream and won’t let anything deter her.

'We hope the worst stretch is behind her although you never know what’s going to happen.'

Margaret is now heading across the Bass Strait and, judging from the weather
reports, it looks like she is heading for round two with Mother Nature.

'It’ll be another race against time,' she said. 'There’s front heading down the east coast of Australia and I’ve got to get across Bass Strait in quick time but, at the moment, there’s not a lot of wind!

'With this trip, every day is a new adventure and you never know how it’ll unfold.'

Margaret hopes to be back in the Fremantle Sailing Club, celebrating her success, in about 60 days’ time.

She was forced to abandon her first crack at the record last November when, after having completed two-thirds of the 7000 nautical mile (13,000 kilometre) journey, her rudder broke during one of several capsizes in the Southern Ocean.

For all the latest on Margaret’s record-breaking journey and to track her up-to-date position, visit www.solosailoz.com.au.