Watch: Carolijn Brouwer Talks Sailing – Sail+Leisure
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Watch: Carolijn Brouwer Talks Sailing

by Ingrid Hale
Carolijn Brouwer - The Ocean Race
Off Watch chats to Carolijn Brouwer, a three-time competitor in The Ocean Race, who sailed to victory with Dongfeng Race Team in that epic final leg of the last race, finishing in her home port of The Hague.
Watch this edition for an in-depth and honest talk about her very accomplished sailing career.
Did you know that before she was an offshore sailor, Carolijn was an incredibly accomplished dinghy sailor in the 470, Laser Radial, Europe and Tornado classes? She won World Sailor of the Year in 1998 and raced in the Olympics in 2000, 2004 and 2008.
Carolijn talks of how she transitioned into the offshore game, and how she now prefers sailing in a team although it has its challenges too.
She also gives insight into how Dongfeng Race Team won the last edition of The Ocean Race saying, “There’s no women or men on board this boat. We are the Dongfeng crew and we want to win this race so we’ll do everything to achieve that goal.”
A short Q&A prior to the start of the race reveals a passionate and determined sailor.

Greatest achievement 

Being awarded the ISAF World Sailor of the Year in 1998. Other career highlights include getting a silver medal at the 2007 ISAF World Championships in the Open Tornado Class and being the only female in the fleet. Another highlight had to be winning Leg 8 in the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 with Team SCA.

What do you want to be remembered or known for?

The first woman to win the Volvo Ocean Race.

When and where did you start sailing?

I started sailing Optimists when I was growing up in Rio de Janeiro when I was about 10 years old. My family has always been involved in watersports, not necessarily sailing. My parents were both competitive rowers. They did occasionally do the Sunday club racing in a 470 dinghy at our local sailing club when we lived in Brazil. My dad was always the skipper and my mum the crew. One day for the first time in their lives they were coming 3rd in the race when 50metres before the finish my mum fell overboard in the water. My Dad then stood before two choices: (1) continue on, leaving my mum in the water but securing 3rd place and then turn around after the finish to pick my mum up or (2) turn around immediately, pick my mum up and continue, meaning they would lose their 3rd place finish. My Dad chose option one and as a result they sold the 470 and from that money, they each bought a Laser dinghy and started racing against each other. From then on, my dad never ever beat my mum in one race! So I guess, I have the competitiveness from my Dad and the natural boat feel from my mum…

What do you love most about sailing?

Sailing for me is about freedom. As soon as the boat leaves the dock, you leave everything behind and it is just you, the boat and the nature elements. Then there is the challenge of getting all the pieces of the puzzle into place.

How do you keep going when you are at your limit?

I like raising the bar high and I am always looking for a new challenge. Not every moment is as enjoyable but somewhere along the way there is a reward and if there isn’t, you just pick yourself up and try again. Hard work gets you a long way so never, never give up and keep smiling. Over the years I have also learned a lot about myself, my body and where my limits are. This definitely helps me today and I know that being well prepared physically also makes me strong mentally.

What makes you passionate about The Ocean Race?

I like adventures, I love challenges and I am very passionate about sailing. There is no sporting event in the world that lasts for nine months. It is unique and the ultimate challenge physically and mentally. Because you are in a team, you also find you get the best out of each other.

What makes a strong sailor?

For me, a strong sailor is an all round sailor. Sailing is a very complex sport, it is like a puzzle. There are so many factors that influence your result. It is technical, physical, strategically challenging and you need to have good knowledge of the weather and a good feel for the boat. In a big team, you are often only a part of the puzzle but to make the most of your specific role, it helps to have an all round knowledge.

Skipper Charles Caudrelier on Carolijn:

I do not see Carolijn as a woman, I just see her as a crew member. If I had to choose a man then I would still pick Carolijn ahead of a lot of guys for her good spirit, her motivation and her skills.”

Added bonus – The biggest waves in The Ocean Race

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