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Taking the Helm - One of America’s Top Sailors Tells Her Story

By Dawn Riley with Cynthia Goss
Published by DR Ventures
289 pages
$17.95 (paperback) $6.99 (e-book)

Dawn Riley is among the most accomplished sailors in the world. She is the first woman to manage an America’s Cup campaign, and the first American, male or female, to sail in three America’s Cups and two Whitbread Round-the-World races. Today, she is the Executive Director of Oakcliff Sailing Center, a unique facility in Oyster Bay, NY where students learn the necessary skills to take a leadership role in competitive sailing. 

Taking the Helm, co-authored with writer and editor Cynthia Goss, is an adventure memoir about Riley’s experiences as the skipper of the 64-foot Heineken – the only all-female entry – in the 1993/94 Whitbread. Receiving an unexpected phone call after the U.S. Women’s Challenge had completed the first leg of the race, Riley was asked to assume leadership of a team on the brink of mutiny due to dissent, financial problems and personal conflicts. After packing up and flying to Uruguay for a few short days of boat preparation and group training, she led the team into the treacherous Southern Ocean to contend with near-hurricane-force winds, numbing temperatures, icebergs, injuries, dwindling supplies, equipment failures and exhaustion. Rallying under Riley’s leadership, the team sailed on and completed the 32,000-mile circumnavigation.

“I am amazed at how relevant the lessons of Heineken still are,” said Riley. “That race taught me how to lead, how to trust my own decisions, and how to overcome challenges – many of which threatened our lives…I hope a new generation of readers will become armchair sailors with this book and, like me, experience a great adventure while getting a crash course in what it means to take a leadership role.”

Taking the Helm was originally published in 1995 by Little, Brown and Company, and Riley’s DR Ventures has reissued it prior to the next running of the event formerly known as the Whitbread and now called the Volvo Ocean Race. The 2014/15 Volvo Ocean Race starts in Spain next October, and among the entries is another all-women’s crew, Team SCA.

“Women have done great things in sailing – and will continue to do great things,” Riley stated. “It takes energy, and it takes young people who will put themselves out there and make a difference.”

The co-author of Taking the Helm, Cynthia Goss also co-authored Gary Jobson: An American Sailing Story with Jobson, and her work has appeared in The New York Times, the Boston Globe, and magazines in North America and Europe. Cynthia works with a variety of individuals and organizations, helping them tell their stories in books, articles, grant proposals and other written materials. She lives in Guilford, CT and is a frequent contributor to WindCheck. Visit cynthiagoss.com to learn more. For more information about Dawn Riley, visit dawnriley.com. To learn more about Oakcliff Sailing Center, log onto oakcliffsailing.org. Taking the Helm is available in paperback and e-book formats at amazon.com. This exciting and inspirational book would make an excellent holiday gift, especially for your favorite young female sailor.


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