Power Kass to OSTAR Success in 2020

Hi! My name is Kass Schmitt. I'm a sailor, recently diagnosed with an autism spectrum condition and ADHD. This May I will be making my second attempt to race solo across the Atlantic in the OSTAR . I am aiming to become the first American woman to complete this iconic race. In doing so, I would also like to increase awareness and acceptance of autism, ADHD and other neurodiverse conditions.

I'm raising additional funds to complete this personal challenge I have been pursuing for the past ten years, a journey which has entailed sacrifice, survival, and self-discovery.  Read on to learn more...

Who are you?
I was born in Rochester, New York 50 years ago. I started sailing as a Computer Science undergrad at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and took up racing while living in Chicago. I moved to London in the mid 90s, and took up sailing again at Hove Lagoon, before completing my first Atlantic crossing in 2008. I then met my partner Rupert Holmes, who encouraged me to get back into racing while we were renovating his vintage Quarter Tonner racing boat Minestrone. Next to us in the boat shed, was Oscar Mead, who was preparing his boat for the 2009 OSTAR. My interest in Oscar’s project grew to the point that I went to Plymouth to watch him start, and before I knew it, I was dreaming of my own OSTAR campaign.

What’s this OSTAR you keep going on about?
The Original Singlehanded TransAtlantic Race is a gruelling 3,000 solo yacht race from Plymouth, England to Newport, Rhode Island. Since its inception in 1960, the OSTAR has been recognised as one of the toughest of yacht races and an extreme test of both sailors and equipment.

Why are you so keen on doing this?
Just over 800 people have taken part in the OSTAR, and many have written books about their experiences. I became obsessed with these stories, and eventually noticed that there has never been an American woman to finish (Judith Lawson  competed in 1980, but sadly didn’t finish). Once I realised there was this little bit of history still to be claimed there was no stopping me!

What’s taking you so long then?
It is frequently said that the most difficult part of the OSTAR is getting to the start, even so, I think I have had it harder than many.

I bought my boat Zest  in January 2013 with the intention of racing the OSTAR that May. Rupert and I knew that it was a tall order to prepare the boat in only four months, but we gave it our best shot. As expected, we did not manage to get Zest to the start of the 2013 race, but the next year we came first in class and second overall in the Royal Western’s Two-handed Round Britain and Ireland Race, and in 2015 I qualified for the 2017 OSTAR by racing solo 1,200 miles from the Azores to Falmouth.

We then nearly lost Zest to a rogue wave  and spent most of 2016 rebuilding her. I set out on the 2017 OSTAR thinking that Zest was stronger than she’d ever been, but not expecting to put this belief to the test so thoroughly right away. The 2017 edition saw some of the deadliest conditions the race has ever faced, with the fleet encountering 70-knot winds mid-Atlantic. Four boats out of the 16 still racing were lost, though thankfully all skippers were saved.

I weathered the storm, before making the difficult decision to retire , more out of prudence than necessity. Despite my disappointment I was very proud to have reached port under my own steam and with only minor damage after 2,300 miles and 19 days alone at sea. I’m looking forward to finishing it next time.

Funny you should ask. No, I’m not insane, but my experience in the 2017 OSTAR did make it clear to me that I experience the world differently to most, and led me to pursue an autism assessment (which then led to an ADHD assessment). I now believe that I have been successful in solo ocean racing BECAUSE of my autism and ADHD, not despite it, and I’m keen to use my experience to challenge stereotypes of autistic people, and be a much needed role model for autistic women and girls.

So you want me to pay for your sailing holiday then?
Have you actually read my previous answers? This is very much not a holiday. Your contributions will be spent on the following:

- Training and equipment to improve safety and performance
- Time away from my work to train and prepare
- Time away from work to share my story, and support my partner charities

What are the risks?
As I mentioned above, the OSTAR is a huge challenge for any sailor, and an extreme test of boats and equipment. There is a chance that I might not make it to the start, let alone the finish, but I think I have demonstrated that I am both determined and capable. I will do everything in my power to finish this race, but at the same time I will not let myself be pressured into doing it if I think the risks are too great. The OSTAR is not my white whale .

What’s in it for me?
In response to the GDPR, GoFundMe has removed their perks feature. If there is enough demand (and volunteers to help make it happen) I will consider setting up a separate swag shop, but in the first instance I’m hoping to find people who are content with the following:

- My undying gratitude
- The knowledge that you were instrumental in helping me make a little bit of women's sailing history
- The satisfaction of helping me build a platform from which I can engage in important neurodiversity activism

I’m a bit broke, is there any other way I can help?
Yes! Spread the word about my campaign to anyone you think might be interested.

Anything else?
Yes, thanks so much for reading this far. Your interest and support means a lot to me!

Donations ()

  • Anna Roads 
    • £60 
    • 1 mo
  • Anonymous 
    • £50 
    • 1 mo
  • Laura Williams 
    • £10 
    • 1 mo
  • Sally Mann 
    • £75 
    • 1 mo
  • Bård Singstad 
    • £25 
    • 1 mo
See all


Kass Schmitt 
London, Greater London, United Kingdom
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