Elena Connor is finding her voice, or VOYCE, and wants to share it with people as she sails around New Zealand.
The diminutive, softly-spoken young American is sailing a figure-8 voyage around New Zealand to raise funds for VOYCE - Whakarongo Mai - a charity that advocates for the approximately 6000 young New Zealanders in foster or whanau care.
Connor, who was brought up in a foster home and started sailing only six years ago, is on a journey to circumnavigate the world and found herself in New Zealand when Covid-19 hit. She has made three major solo ocean passages covering more than 10,000 nautical miles in the Pacific over the past three years, all alongside her rescue dog, Zia.
She's hoping to raise $50,000 for a new scholarship programme for youth in foster care to attend the 10-day youth development journeys aboard the Spirit of New Zealand tall ship.
"Youth who have attended the Spirit’s 10-day voyages have developed life skills that enabled them to have successful futures in all kinds of industry, all over the world," she wrote in a recent blog. "Over 500 youth in New Zealand will be aging out of care in 2021, and are in need of opportunities to create a brighter future for themselves. Help us change their lives."
Connor started her journey around New Zealand on her 10.4m yacht Windfola on October 14 and is presently in Napier. She plans to take 21 weeks to sail around New Zealand and would love the opportunity to speak at yachting and boating clubs around the country about her voyages.
From Napier, she will sail down to the Cook Strait, down the west coast of the South Island, through the Foveaux Strait, north to Dunedin and Christchurch, through the Cook Strait to Wellington, and north to New Plymouth, around Cape Reinga and past the Bay of Islands to return to Auckland at the end of the summer.