Youngest, only girl, only Brit

James Boyd caught up with Emma Richards prior to yesterday's departure of the Around Alone
Thank heaven for Emma Richards. Pindar, her Scarborough-based print and internet sponsor ('from ink to internet' reads their slogan) stepped in at the eleventh hour to bankroll Richards' entry in the singlehanded round the world race with stops and in the process Around Alone gained not only its youngest competitor, but it's only girl (since Isabelle Autissier has hung up her singlehanded sailing Dubarrys) and, most importantly for a race that has deviated its course this time to visit English shores, the only Brit. We caught up with Richards for sundowners at the Newport Yacht Club last week to find out why the girl who won her class in the 2000 Europe 1 New Man STAR solo transatlantic race and who at the time swore she'd never go singlehanded racing again is setting out on what many feel is the hardest race in the singlehanded offshore racing calendar. Aside from the obvious reasons such as it perhaps not seeming so bad with two years worth of hindsight and her partner in crime Miranda Merron now entered in the other big solo round the world race, the 2004 Vendee Globe, Richards says that the Around Alone represents a different challenge to the upwind slog of the OSTAR. "Upwind, it's just not so much fun sailing. You're just bashing up to windward. You think 'oh God, here we go again'. The third big low comes in at over 40 knots and you think 'okay, but I've had enough of this now'. Whereas downwind even if you've got 40 knots downwind or even 50 knots downwind, you're going fast in the right direction and it's pulling in good miles." Quite apart from this in the transatlantic race the boat she was sailing - formerly Pete Goss' Open 50 Aqua Quorum from