Sistership Crew goes for a new record

Stephanie York, Capt. Michelle Boroski, Johanna Gabbard and Stephanie (Scout) Maheu taking up this year’s challenge.

by Gail Field

Setting a world record isn’t for the faint of heart. Michelle Boroski can attest to that, as she is the Captain of Team Sistership, an all-woman crew that finished the Race2Alaska boating contest last year as the first all-woman team to do so.

Taking up this year’s challenge, the team sets sail again on June 8 for the 750 mile boat race, also known as the R2AK, from Port Townsend, Washington to Ketchikan Alaska.

Members of the Team Sistership crew, including three from Ventura, are Michelle Boroski, Johanna Gabbard, Stephanie York, and Stephanie Maheu, all over the age of 50.

‘We want to set an example for women and girls by showing that they can accomplish great things with determination and skill,” says Michelle Boroski.   “This is what has empowered me to accept the challenge of this very special race.”

The R2AK is a unique race with few rules.  Any boat qualifies but must remove the motor and must have some type of human power mechanism. The Sistership is a Corsair F-27 trimaran, owned and refurbished by Boroski, and has 2 custom sliding seat rowing stations on each side of the boat.

The team will face many challenges in the R2AK.  Some of what they face has to do with weather, such as changing tides, currents and wind direction, all of which factor into the speed of the boat.  When the winds die down, the crew has to row the 3.000 pound boat, and that takes time and muscle power.  In last year’s race they spent about 70 hours rowing and lost time having to recover by sleeping off exhaustion.  It took the team eleven days to arrive at the Ketchikan destination. In spite of the many obstacles last year, the team came in 15th in a field that began with 45 boats, with only 26 completing the race.

Team members are not daunted by the obstacles, but rather see them as part of their message.  “We want to do the race again this year to keep alive the inspiration for women to engage in adventurous sports and being more active,” says Johanna Gabbard.

“As women in our 50s, we want to dismantle the age and gender stereotypes we face,” adds Boroski.  “Because we are primarily healthcare providers, we recognize that sometimes people’s concept of aging and what that means can be a barrier to staying active.”

Last year the crew was able to raise $8,000 for scholarships for women and girls in education and to provide on-the-water opportunities at the Northwest Maritime Center in Washington. This year they have also joined with the Ventura Community Partners Foundation to offer scholarships for local women and girls so they may participate in active, healthy programs in sports, sailing, aquatics and fitness.

This is a hugely popular race to watch, and this year the public can follow real time tracking by logging on to their website. In addition, donations to the cause are gratefully accepted at www.sistership.org.  Their motto describes their mission in just a few words:  “Active Women: Aging Proud, Growing Bold.”

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