Every now and then, you come across someone with extraordinary drive. They are utterly singular, have the ability to seize the day in a spectacular fashion, and seem to be compelled to undertake formidable endeavours.
Izabel Pimentel is one of these people. In as late as 1996, she become the first Brazilian woman to sail across the Atlantic Ocean single-handedly, an achievement which, relatively late in the annals of female sailing achievements, speaks to the lack of opportunities made available to female Brazilians without means who dream of offshore sailing.
She is also the first Brazilian and Latin-American woman to have sailed single-handedly around the globe, her circumnavigation completed in December, 2014. Despite this, she is rarely named in lists of female sailors of note.
Izabel was born several hundred kilometres from the ocean, part of a large family which was far from having the means to afford a boat or become a member of the prestigious yacht clubs. Her access to the ocean has been slow and particularly hard-won, and she describes her continual challenges fighting prejudices based on her gender and the colour of her skin.
She makes no apology for dedicating much of her online presence to being unabashedly political, forthright in her condemnation of state corruption, injustice, environmental destruction, and the subjugation of human rights. She is staunchly patriotic as regards her native Brazil, and writes extensively online about women, her personal history and feminism.
She has published 5 books where she recounts her epic travels: full of emotion, vivid experiences, her relationship with the ocean and her own battles to control her fear during those exceptionally hairy moments. “Some arrogance, Izabel, to think that at some point it considered you. The sea doesn't even know who you are, woman.”
When asked why she feels this urge to go to sea, Izabel quotes Moitessier:
“You do not ask a tame seagull why it needs to disappear from time to time toward the open sea. It goes, that’s all, and it is as simple as a ray of sunshine, as normal as the blue of the sky.”
Now with over 90,000nm logged, she has lost none of the fire that propels her onwards. Her plans for this year are centred around competing in the Global Solo Challenge, leaving from A Coruña in September, and traversing the three great capes. Watch out for her!