Race to Alaska 2016 – Meet Team Sistership

June 26, 2016

Michelle Boroski – Captain, Johanna Gabbard, Janice Mason, Sherry Smith – Team Sistership is the first all female crew to join the R2AK family, and they are all over 50.  They studied last year’s race then acquired a F-27 trimaran.  Their collective resume has professional sailors, an Olympian rower, riggers & sailmakers, and while we’re at it throw in a few transits: Oceans, Great Lakes, and the Panama Canal to name a few.  Title 9 had a huge impact in shaping the lives of these women.  They are racing with the hope of inspiring other women.


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– Go hard. Sleep little. We sort of have an unfair advantage over a lot of the teams, because we’re all in menopause and we don’t get cold. We have hot flashes, and we wake up every two hours, we don’t really sleep a whole lot, so, you know we could give ’em a couple points, maybe a couple miles, but we won’t. Johanna and I started Team Sistership back in August of last year, and we found the boat here in Port Townsend area, and we decided since we were in our fifties that we wanted a team of having all women in our fifties. We thought that it would be a great statement to make, that in our fifties still do this kind of thing, and then as it’s grown, our mission has been to empower women our age, as well as girls, and the race is actually on the 44th anniversary of Title IX on June 23rd, and Title IX has been instrumental in our lives, at least in the United States, allowing us to, you know, live strong, powerful, bold lives. My name is Michelle Boroski, I’m the captain of Sistership. I live in Ventura, California, used to live here for ten years. Bought the boat here.

– My name is Johanna Gabbard, I’m from Ventura also, and I am crew for this team.

– I’m Janice Mason and I’m from Victoria, BC, in Canada.

– Eh?

– Yeah, eh.

– I’m Sherry, I’m from Sausalito, California, and, ah, comfortable at this end of the boat, but gonna spend a lot of time back there too.

– The team name is Team Sistership. I think it’s partly just what it means to kind of be camaraderie and kind of goes with our statement. Three of us are in healthcare and for me particularly, the idea of having role models in our age group doing things of this type, is really important I think to women, so many women that come to see us think they’re old at fifty because that’s kind of what they know, and they don’t realize that they can do a lot, and continue to do things if they stay healthy, so I think that’s part of our campaign.

– Sistership traditionally means boats of similar, you know, in a similar fleet, and we have a lot of F-27’s and F-31’s and F-30’s here, so it’s kind of cool, cause we have a Sistership boat in a race with a lot of Trimarans, which is gonna be really fun. It’s another aspect of the name.

– So our strategy, and I hope it’s a winning one, there’s a lot of boats with just three people, and I think fatigue is a huge factor in this race, and I went over and over in my head, three versus four, three versus four. One, we’re women in our fifties, we’re not in our twenty-fives, twenty year olds anymore. But I think for us, four was important, especially if we do much rowing, if it’s a typical Pacific Northwest summer and we’re rowing a lot, four’s gonna be crucial for fatigue. And, if we can each shift be well rested and just attack every tack like we’re in a short race, every second counts as far as I’m concerned, and if we are rested I think we can do that a little bit better. So my old friend Sebastian Eggert of Rainshadow Woodworks had jumped on our team a few months ago, as many many shore crew members have helped us in so many ways. And this was a big dilemma for me, especially since I live in Ventura, trying to do things from afar, and I’ve been up here probably seven, eight times, flying up here to try to get things ready for this. I wasn’t exactly sure how to do this, how to make it work, and Seb jumped in and designed this incredible rowing apparatus that actually flips up, we can have access to our hatch, the oar lock rotates in so big shout out to Seb for making this, it’s awesome. Our crew member right here downplays herself, she’s an Olympic rower from Canada, so, she’s our secret weapon.

– Yeah I’m not much of a sailor, and I found out about the crew just online, on Facebook actually, and hooked onto their website and sent Michelle an email and said hey I’m interested, I don’t know much about sailing, but I’m strong, I can row, I’ve done endurance events and …

– She’s got local knowledge, she’s kayaked these waters. So we’re counting on her for some of that first half of the passage.

– May be a little easier when the boat’s not actually tied down.

– We have three head sails that we’re gonna use, depending on the wind, the wind angles, whether we’re going upwind or downwind. We have the jib here, and it’s on a nice furler. We’ve got a screecher, which is our reaching sail, which is hoisted right now on our spinnaker halyard. We’re also rigged here for a spinnaker kite, which will be on these, this red line, and we’ll use that halyard to hoist up the spinnaker for a downwind sail, for going downwind. These are for our harnesses, so we’ll be clipped in and safe the whole time. We don’t necessarily go out on these, but if we need to do something, we can always scooch out here, fix things, inspect things, make sure we have no weeds underneath the rudder or the keel.

– Nobody will be sleeping back here, this will just be the lightweight stuff. This particular boat tends to drag its behind a little bit, so we want to put all the weight forward. Our intention is to have, uh, there’s four of us, we’ll have three on, three off. Everybody will sleep forward, or out on the ama. This is made by Brion Toss, this is an endless mainsail sheet. It’s actually 16:1 purchase here, and 8:1 if you do both together. We’ve replaced a lot of the stuff, there’s the traveler, brand new traveler, brand new traveler lines. We just, another shout out, I gotta do this because so many people have donated to us, it’s just incredible. We just put all these new lines on, these were all donated by Cajun Ropes out of Nova Scotia. This guy contacted me and, here we go, all new lines. It’s just been incredible. And I also want to say, I’ve said it several times, but we did this to empower women, but I have had so many men come out of the woodworks to empower us. This guy from Cajun Ropes, the previous owner, Jeff Mclane, who has helped us tremendously with all kinds of stuff. So it’s just touched my heart in particular to have so many men come out, out of the woodworks to help me, unsolicited. Brion Toss rigging, who donated so many hours of free rigging for us. All of our rigging is made of rope, it’s called Dyneema Ducks, there’s no wire, it’s super lightweight, but at the same time, this particular piece of line right here has a breaking strength of 27,000 pounds, where a similar wire rigging has a breaking strength of 7,000 pounds. So this is way stronger and way lighter than any possible rigging made of wire that we could have had, so all these men have helped me out. It’s just been incredible. The solar panel is a hundred watt solar panel, these are lee cloths, keep you from rolling out of bed. This will hook here … We took our head out because we didn’t want the weight. We pretty much have taken every possible thing out, our cushions and everything. We’re eating freeze-dried food and nuts. Basically all of our food you just add water. Our energy system we have two batteries, a battery here and a battery here, both are 79 amp, so we have a total of close to 160 amp hours. We have a VHF radio right here, that is, um has a GPS, AIS, and DSC.

– You know, we hope in our generation, we hope ten years from now that won’t be a phrase, “like a girl”, because the older girls, when answered what does it mean to you when someone says run like a girl, you know they do the little, like I’m all uncoordinated, and when you ask the little kids what does it mean to run like a girl, they go, it means to run as fast as you can as strong as you can. And, you know, I work with a lot of kids, and I just love that. And I’ve been racing on these boats a while, on these Corsairs, I love them, they’re fast, they’re fun, but a lot of times it’s a guy’s, sailing is still … I don’t want to say this the wrong way, but it’s still really difficult for women when they walk on the boat, to be respected. And so, especially on fast boats, and I’m lucky, I get to sail with men, I’m usually the only woman on the boat, so this is a new experience, I’ve never sailed with all women before, but that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to also set a great example for the little kids and the women, and anyone who’s learning and new to sailing, and a little bit intimidated and a little bit afraid. We want to set an example just to show everyone if you have the dream, you get on board and you just do it. Every ceiling when reached becomes a floor, each thing you learn, that’s your floor, and then you keep working up. That’s why I’m here, I’ve done four Iron Mans, I’ve done Trans Pac, Pac Cup, Chicago Mack, and I’m here to do the race to Alaska. Go Team Sistership!

5 Responses So Far to “Race to Alaska 2016 – Meet Team Sistership”:

  1. Avatar Kimberly Young says:

    Love this!

  2. Avatar Will Parkes says:

    This video was excruciatingly painful to watch but I managed to get through it.

  3. Avatar Jerry Rose says:

    Great Video. Very inspiring women. I think it’s great they are out to inspire other women that Anything is possible. When I coached high school competitive rowing, I found the girls on the team to be the quickest learners and the best at technique – way more coachable and fast at learning.

  4. Avatar Robin Van Auken says:

    Go Team Sistership!

  5. Avatar Chris Hughes says:

    Love Cajun Ropes….
    Great guys, or gals. Been buying from them for years…

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