Although always interested in professional sailing, her career path has alternated between her passion for sailing and another male-dominated field, mechanical engineering, specializing in aircraft wing design.
“I’m used to not fitting the mold and I like it in some ways,” Ellis said. She shared it helps rather than hurts being a women, her crew appreciating her nice, calm approach. Indeed, it’s served them well. Ellis steered her yacht Switzerland to victory on the treacherous Hobart to Brisbane leg of the Clipper Race. She also won the Jane Tate Memorial Trophy presented to the first female skipper over the line in the prestigious Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, which was Race 6 of the Clipper Race.
The Clipper Round the World is definitely not for the faint of heart; it’s world tour represents the most challenging ocean racing there is. Most recently on the Qingdao to San Francisco leg the fleet encountered 70-knot winds and 18-ft.swells while crossing the infamous Pacific Ocean.
Interestingly, the only professional sailors aboard are the skippers. The crew consists of a regular people, some experienced sailors, some complete novices, who answer the call of the sea with a commitment of a single leg to the entire race – a full year. It’s the skipper’s responsibility to prepare the crew to meet the same challenges experienced by pro ocean racers.
Ellis chose to do the Clipper Race for precisely this reason; it fits the type sailing she prefers, sail training. Several years ago with her “Diamonds Are Forever” campaign she skippered a six-person all female crew across the Atlantic. “The Clipper environment is like that, only larger. It’s a perfect fit, I love off-shore and I love teamwork.”
While she enjoys imparting technical sailing skills, it’s the sense of confidence she instills in her crew she finds the most rewarding. It offers the same gratification as teaching sailing to young adults, some disadvantaged, back in the United Kingdom. “It’s really interesting to see how sailing breeds confidence that can change lives,” she said.
Home for Ellis is the “boho cool” city of Bristol. When not sailing there, she enjoys adding to her understated chic wardrobe by shopping the city’s trendy vintage stores. Park Street in The Triangle and Gloucester Street are favorite hunting grounds for jackets and coats with vintage charm.
Fashion on board takes a practical approach of course. Ellis shared her best buy for the Clipper Race has been her Icebreaker sports bras. Made of Merino wool, with a touch of Lycra, they are naturally odor-resistant, naturally wicking and breathable. Her preferred colors are pink and green, for some reason the black one tends to stay in the drawer.
For sailing gear, Henri Lloyd wins, her Ladies Ocean Explorer Jacket is a favorite. She shared despite being made of a tough Gore-Tex lined material it has good articulation, the best on the market in her view.
Henri Lloyd has further enhanced the original Ocean Explorer design with innovative technology. Their new Women’s Offshore Elite Jacket is 30% lighter than the best in class predecessors and well as 20% more breathable – without any compromise on durability and waterproofness.
“As a skipper they say you need to have eyes in the back of your head so the clear sides to the hood give me great visibility on deck and the jacket has got me through many wet and wild storms this race so far,” Ellis said.
Traversing the warmest and coldest climates on earth, as skincare is key. Ellis uses Clarins Sunscreen for Face Wrinkle Control Cream 50+ and the Sunscreen Care Milk-Lotion Spray 50+ on board Switzerland. She also likes their Eau Dynamisante Shower Gel, adding it lathers well in both seawater and freshwater.
Ellis is wine enthusiast with a passion for White Burgundy. Macon, Chablis, Montrachet, Meursault; she loves it all. She added she appreciates New World Chardonnays and whites in general. Favoring dry, full-bodied wines, she laughed and said, “Anything but pinot grigio!”
Ellis pointed out a very important fact about the Clipper I had yet to realize. “The Clipper Race is an enologist’s dream,” she said. “Look at where we stop: Brest, Rio, Cape Town, West and East Australia – all within driving distance of major wine regions.”
What a comforting thought. Although all clipper yachts are dry (excess weight of any type is the enemy in racing), those with a passion for wine can experience the world of it.
“The Clipper is not just the world’s most expensive dating site (the race has been known to host a little romance) and diet (courtesy of the strenuous work and seasickness) – it’s also a secret wine tour!” she remarked.
When asked her most memorable Clipper moment to date, she paused for a moment and then said, “Every arrival. We stop at some of the most incredible harbors in the world. It’s a big reveal moment, it’s magical.”
Second in a series on the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, the only race where organizers supply the fleet of 12 identical, 70-ft, racing yachts, each sponsored by a brand, led by professional skippers and manned by sailors of all experience levels and walks of life.