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January 2005

Article selected from our quarterly magazine dedicated to the largest and most luxurious boats with information, interviews, technical articles, images and yachting news



Yachting catalogue

Navigation tests

Used boats


Video Nautica

Interview by
Franca Urbani

Woman captain

Damiana Corrias is one of the very few existing women super-yacht masters and we managed to catch up with her through the grapevine of her male counterparts. She is currently skippering a 22-metre Farr Southern Wind, "Nessun Dorma", which was built in a Cape Town boatyard in South Africa. Chance would have it that the owner of "Nessun Dorma" is also a woman who obviously has no prejudices about the seafaring skills of the fair sex. I meet Damiana in Viareggio where we have a pleasant chat about her activities on board the yacht berthed in the Arpeca dock, where it will spend the winter, after a busy summer of magnificent sailing cruises in the Mediterranean.

Damiana, tell me about your origins

I was born 36 years ago in the South of Sardinia, in a house by the sea in Portoscuso, in the province of Cagliari. I am a woman master who for nine years now has been skippering yachts, I therefore have a job that has traditionally been almost always exclusively male. Suffice to think that sailors have always thought that having a woman on board brings bad luck, while they are considered perfect in the role of the master's wife.

Tell us briefly how your life at sea started

I have had a passion for the sea since I was little. At the age of 14, together with a group of friends, I founded the Windsurf Vela Club in my hometown. At the age of 18 I passed the exam for the federal sailing and windsurf instructor's licence; despite the fact that I was actually attending a technical high school for accountants, my thoughts were always far from the greyness of figures and always nearer to the blue of the sea. However, I then worked with my mother in her flower shop and in my free time I sailed with my friends. I would never have thought that my love for the sea would have become my real job.

What marine training do you have?

I didn't go to the Technical Sailing school, because at that time my family would never have agreed to such a choice. In the beginning my training took place solely on boats, thanks to the teaching of excellent sailors who took me to sea with them and passed on to me their knowledge on the art of sailing. When four years ago pleasure sailing was levelled with merchant sailing, I had to take a series of courses to gain the maritime professional title of 2nd class captain, which qualifies me to pilot boats up to 7,000 tonnes.

Atlantic crossings?

Yes, several, one with "Gael", then in the winter of 1997 on "Lady Samanta" a 17-metre Ketch belonging to Ennio Nard of the Circolo Velico d'Altura in Chioggia. A boat which sank last year in a storm off New York, fortunately without victims. In 1998 together with others on a 16-metre sailing catamaran and in 1999 on the first Wally, the 25-metre "Mister Geco".

As a woman skipper have you had any special problems?

In the beginning I sensed a lack of consideration by others, then as my self-confidence gradually increased I learnt to gain respect.

Was it difficult to find work in your role as woman master?

Definitely. And if it hadn't been for help kindly given me by Battista Borea d'Olmo, who has always believed in me, the owner of "Naly" would never have chosen me as master, purely because I am a woman.

Do you know any other women masters?

There are many women sailing boats, but very few have professional qualifications. I know that there are some among the English masters.

How come there are so few women super yacht masters?

You need a strong spirit to put up with the prejudices in this profession. I reckon I am very lucky, because a lot of people have helped me and put their trust in me. To do this job women must be very motivated.

What are the other typical female roles on board superyachts?

Cook and hostess. Until 10 years ago, owners didn't want hostesses on board, today all the yachts that employ them are more than satisfied. If a woman has a good preparation she is taken on for the whole year, with all the necessary guarantees. Otherwise she will only be offered seasonal work, temporary in other words.

Who is there in your current crew?

Apart from me there is a female cook and a sailor.

What effect does a woman skipper have on outsiders?

When we come into harbour I usually sense a certain admiration from men, but sometimes seem slightly annoyed.

What would you say to a young woman intending to become a super-yacht master?

If she is willing, step by step, to work her way up and to be very determined, she will definitely get there, not quickly to be sure but she will also be paid well.

Captain of "Nessun Dorma"

Name: Damiana.

Surname: Corrias.

Age: 37

Nationality: Italian.

Training: Business High School.

Previous command experience: "Naly", for eight years.

Current command: master on "Nessun Dorma".

Flag: Italian.

Main characteristics of the boat, (design, interior layout, technological and structural systems): Farr yacht design for the waterlines and the sails.

Interior architecture (colours, materials, decor, lights): Design by the architect Antonio Minniti for deck geometry and interior furnishings.

Favourite marine: Wintering in Viareggio.

Favourite route: Mediterranean routes.

What technological innovations in yachting do you think look interesting and why? Innovations regarding safety at sea (map GPS, radar, epirb) because they mean we can fully enjoy the sea without running worthless risks.

The worst incident that has ever happened to you?: An encounter with a shark in Australia, the time I dived down to check the keel.

The event from your professional life that you remember with most pleasure: When my first owner gave me the job of sailing Naly in 1996, I was so happy and I felt so proud to have made it, as a woman and a master. I remember thinking that all the effort of getting there was over but that now there would be even more effort involved with more responsibility.

An opinion on her role of Master and the world she works in: I am very happy and proud of my job, because it allows me to stay in contact with the sea. It is hard work but I really love it also because very peaceful periods alternate with others that are much more frenetic. I am a romantic, in love with sailing, but I think that the world of yachting is changing fast and calls for professional figures who know how to adapt to the new technology. For this reason, although I have my professional licence for mastering ships up to 7,000 tonnes, I have already planned to follow a course of parallel skills in anti-terrorist safety regulations and lots of other new, stimulating subjects.