Sometimes the last, small steps to fulfillment begin deep in the soul, in a place where only loved ones can reach.
Oakland resident Stephanie Evans was only 18 when her dad, Tony, suddenly died from a heart attack. Through heartbreak and struggle, the 28-year-old Evans has finally taken up the sport her dad was renowned for.
Evans was recently selected to compete in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race — the world's largest ocean race covering 40,000 miles and lasting 11 months. Evans was at the South Beach Yacht Club (SBYC) on the Embarcadero when Great Britain's Sir Ben Ainslie — the most successful sailor in Olympic history — gave her the good news.
“That was an absolute thrill,” Evans said. “To be able to hear the news from Sir Ben Ainslie, it's a moment I'll never forget.”
A University of Florida graduate, Evans was born in Durban, South Africa, and lived in England for four years before her family moved to Wisconsin in 1998. Evans' dad was an acclaimed sailor and ocean racer and was just beginning to introduce his daughter to the sport when he passed away.
For the next several years, Evans tried to cope with her loss by focusing on college and work, and for a while it proved to be the perfect outlet for her pain.
However, when she got laid off in 2009, Evans was forced to face the reality that she had avoided for so long — that sailing was in her blood.
“My job was my life, and when I lost it, I really lost my sense of self,” said Evans, who currently works as an acquisitions editor at McGraw-Hill Education in San Francisco. “I had really been a workaholic, and suddenly having no work really left me adrift.”
Evans started to wonder what would give her meaning in life, and ultimately she knew in her heart that she had to take up sailing. In 2011, Evans started to learn how to sail at the Cal Sailing Club, starting a journey that has landed her in a dream role.
Evans will be flown to China in March to join one of the 12 racing yachts competing in the Pacific leg of the Clipper Race, which covers 5,600 miles and will take an estimated 33 days to its stop at the SBYC. It will be a daunting challenge for Evans, who has never gone ocean sailing before.
“To cross the Pacific Ocean is arguably the most challenging leg of the race,” she said. “It is known for 70-foot waves, and hopefully I'm courageous in the face of those challenges. It will be a successful experience if I'm brave and I sail with courage.”
Of course, Evans will no doubt be thinking about her dad along the way.
“This has really filled in the missing piece I had when he passed away,” Evans said.