2 minute read

Isabelle Autissier

Averting Disaster—again

Two years later, Autissier entered the Around Alone for the third time. She was leading the race in its third leg when—halfway between New Zealand and Cape Horn—a huge wave hit PRB and caused its autopilot to malfunction. The boat capsized. She had only enough time to slam the waterproof hatch behind her to prevent the cabin from flooding. Autissier activated her emergency beacons, but she was far from shipping lanes and out of

Isabelle Autissier

the range of the rescue services. Race officials directed one of her competitors, Giovanni Soldini of Italy, to go to her aid. Soldini piloted his boat through fierce conditions for more than twenty hours to reach Autissier's coordinates. "The problem is that these positions aren't precise, and it won't be easy to see Isabelle's boat," Soldini emailed to his Milan-based racing team. "Visibility is always poor, and in any case I'll need some luck."

Two and a half hours later, Soldini saw the upturned hull of Autissier's boat being pummeled by enormous waves. Twice he steered close to PRB and called for her, but there was no sign of Autissier. On his third pass, Soldini threw a hammer at the hull. It struck forcefully. An escape hatch opened, and Autissier crawled out. She had been sleeping.

Weeks after being rescued from the raging, frigid Southern seas for the second time in her larger-than-life career, Isabelle Autissier had this to say about racing around the world alone: "No more.… This has been mycrazy job for 10 years. I had 10 wonderful years doing that, maybe the best years of my life—great adventures, great friends, great feelings. It has been a wonderful story for me. But now it's time to do something else."


1956 Born October 18 in Brittany, France
1978 Graduates from college with a degree in nautical engineering
1987 Finishes third in the Mini Transat, a solo race across the Atlantic
1989 Finishes fourth in La Solitaire du Figaro competition
1991 Finishes seventh in the BOC yacht race (later renamed Around Alone) to become the first woman sailor to circumnavigate the planet
1994 Sets world record sailing around Cape Horn from New York to San Francisco in sixty-two days, five hours, and fifty-five minutes—beating the old record by two weeks
1994 Capsizes in the Indian Ocean during the Around Alone Race and spends four days adrift before being rescued by the Australian military
1996 Disqualified from the Vendee Globe race when she requires assistance to repair a broken rudder
1999 Capsizes midway between New Zealand and Cape Horn during her third Around Alone race; rescued by rival Giovanni Soldini
1999 Announces retirement from solo marathon racing

Since that time, in 1999, the quiet, modest French-woman has kept a low profile and avoided media coverage. She lives near the coast of France, in the region where she was born and learned, as a child, to sail.

Awards and Accomplishments

1991 First woman ever to sail alone around the world
1994 Sailed from New York harbor to San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge by way of Cape Horn in fastest time ever
1996 Sailed around the world alone for the second time
2002 Inducted into the Museum of Yachting's Single-Handed Sailors' Hall of Fame

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsOther SportsIsabelle Autissier Biography - Passion For The Sea, Around The World, Capsized, Averting Disaster—again, Chronology, Awards And Accomplishments