NEW YORK — An old television series featured actor Gardner McKay as he sailed to Tahiti with an all-girl crew. Miranda Delmar-Morgan has bigger aspirations. She's recruiting women to race around the world.
The 30-year-old British skipper is putting together an all-female crew of 13 for the Whitbread Round-the-World race. She has a long list of applicants ranging from an auto mechanic to a nurse who served in the Falkland Islands War.
But Gauloises III will never ride the waves unless Delmar-Morgan comes up with $400,000 to pay the bills for the race, which begins Sept. 28 in Portsmouth, England.
"I haven't raised a penny," she said earlier this month in a telephone interview from Newport, R.I., one of the ports-of-call in her fund-raising effort.
While Delmar-Morgan insists she will have no problem putting together a competent crew, finding enough corporate sponsorship to pay the expenses of a six-month, 27,000-mile race is another matter.
"I need a major sponsor at $200,000 and I've got an interested party," she said. "As soon as I get the major sponsor I'm sure the others will join. Attracting the first one, that's the problem."
Delmar-Morgan, who skippers luxury yachts for jet setters on vacation in the Bahamas and the Riviera, hopes the novelty of her idea will attract the financial support to make it a reality.
"There are Americans, New Zealanders, Australians and Japanese who want to join, so there shouldn't be too much difficulty putting a multinational crew aboard," she said.
Delmar-Morgan has made the equivalent of three trips around the world under sail in a lifetime on the water.
She was raised aboard a 1908 Morecambe Bay Prawner in the River Crouch, but the seafaring history of her family can be traced back to the 18th century. Her great-great-great-grandfather, Capt. William Locker, once commanded Horatio Nelson, who later as a British admiral defeated the French Fleet in the Napoleonic Wars.
Although she defines herself as "anything but an ardent feminist," Delmar-Morgan is out to prove women can compete against men on the high seas.
"It is a test of endurance and stamina, strength of character and compatibility, quite apart from the seamanship required." she said. "It's never been done by an all-female crew, but I think we could do it and do very well.
"I am a great believer that women are perfectly capable of doing most things that men do, and with a little forethought can overcome the minor drawback of lesser physical strength."
To date, Delmar-Morgan has chosen four women--Mary Anne Brady, a sailmaker from Marblehead, Mass., Celia Marr of England, Deborah Fry of Australia and Yumi Murakami of Japan--needed to crew the 65-foot sloop in which she will chase her dream. But without sponsorship, ashore they will remain, grounded by lack of funds.
"We have an extremely newsworthy venture to offer, and I feel totally confident I could delight my sponsors with massive publicity, which is, after all, what they seek," she said. "The first all-female challenge will get a great deal of media attention if only we find the means to put to sea."