Born into a Sydney yachting family, Kay Cottee developed a childhood ambition to sail around the world. In her twenties she became a proficient boat builder and managed a yacht charter business on Sydney’s northern beaches. She subsequently built the First Lady, in which she became the first woman to circumnavigate the world non-stop and unassisted.
On her epic 189-day journey Cottee set seven world records, returning to a rapturous reception from tens of thousands of spectators on Sydney Harbour in June 1988. Cottee’s Australian of the Year award recognised her inspirational feat, but also honoured her extensive efforts in raising over $1,000,000 for the Life Education Centres of Reverend Ted Noffs. Cottee observed, ‘I think national pride is growing and the land of the great knockers is fading out. A lot of people didn’t take me seriously when I started my journey, but everyone joined in as I got further along the way.’