The Malta Independent 21 May 2022, Saturday

Yachtswoman, author, ME spokeswoman Clare Francis MBE to give talk in aid of Save Valletta’s Skyline

Tuesday, 8 October 2019, 10:21 Last update: about 4 years ago

The Save Valletta’s Skyline appeal has, over the past few years, organised a series of fascinating cultural events to raise money to fund vital restoration work on St Paul’s Pro-Cathedral in Valletta. The next event in the series is ‘A Life in Parallels’ – a talk by Clare Francis, author, yachtswoman, adventurer and public speaker. Ms Francis has led an eclectic life, and she will be sharing aspects of her multifaceted careers with her audience.

Born in Surrey, England, Ms Francis spent much of her childhood in a remote corner of the Yorkshire Dales where she developed her love of the landscape that is a feature of so much of her fiction. Her summer holidays were spent on the Isle of Wight, where she learnt to sail at the age of nine.

Ms Francis then spent five years at the Royal Ballet School, got her A-levels and read for a degree in Economics at University College London. Working in marketing for a few years led her to take a year out to travel and discover what she really wanted to do.

This time out for some self-reflection led to the launch of what Ms Francis calls her 'unplanned' five-year career in sailing. This was an unsponsored and unsung solo voyage across the Atlantic. Soon after, she was offered sponsorship to take part in the Round Britain Race with Eve Bonham, followed by the Azores and Back Singlehanded Race, and the Observer Singlehanded Transatlantic Race. At a petite 5'2", Ms Francis is the smallest person to ever sail the Atlantic. She went on to set a new women's single-handed transatlantic record in 1976 and was also the first woman to skipper a yacht in the Whitbread Round the World Race.

Fearless and focused, Ms Francis faced all sorts of weather conditions in her time at sea - including storms, gales, and ferociously rough seas. Yet, despite these challenges from nature, she rarely feared for her life. In a 1980 interview with the BBC she said: "I've always felt very secure on the deck of a boat, because after sailing for many years, you get a special instinct for what the waves are doing."

Ms Francis' many sea-faring adventures inspired three works of non-fiction - Come Hell or High Water (1977), Come Wind or Weather (1978), and The Commanding Sea (1981). Her success in this area led her to write fiction. What followed was a series of acclaimed thrillers and crime novels. Night Sky was published in 1983 to international success. It went to number one in the Sunday Times bestseller list and spent six weeks in the New York Times top 10. More thrillers followed, as did a highly-acclaimed literary novel, Homeland. Her last crime novel Unforgotten was published in 2008.

Ms Francis' myriad achievements have earned her an MBE. She is also a Fellow of University College London, and an Honorary Fellow of UMIST. She has served as Chairman of the Society of Authors (1997-99) and Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Public Lending Right (2000-03). For the past 30 years she has been committed to the charity Action for ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Encephalopathy), of which she is President. She herself has had ME for many years.

Not merely targeted at sailing enthusiasts or book lovers, but anyone with an interest in powerful, fascinating and inspiring human stories, A Life in Parallels - A talk by Clare Francis, will be held on 3 October at the Royal Malta Yacht Club, Ta' Xbiex Seafront, Ta' Xbiex. Tickets are priced at €25 per person, including wine and canapés. To book, please email [email protected]

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