Joan Mulloy is a professional, solo sailor from Westport, Ireland. She grew up on a mussel farm in Clew Bay and has always had a deep love of the ocean. Joan learned to sail at age 8 in a mirror dinghy in the very same waters Grace O’ Malley would have sailed. Helping others to prepare for events and racing she picked up a lot of experience and finally completed the Monaco Globe Series. Not only was Joan the first Irish woman to compete in this race, she finished in fourth place. In August 2018, she broke the mould once more by becoming the first Irish female competitor in La Solitaire du Figaro, considered one of the toughest off shore sailing races in the world. Joan’s mental resolve as a solo sailor and her brave, bold attitude in taking on some of the most gruelling races in the world embodies the spirt of her ancestor Grace O’Malley.  Joan is now competing under black sails emblazoned with the name of the legendary Irish Pirate Queen, Granuaile following the tradition of her great strong female ancestor.#believeingrace

Age:  32

Profession: Solo offshore sailor

Can you describe yourself using 3/5 words? 

Different, determined, driven.

What motivates you? 


What story in your life made you the person you are today? 

The people I have met along the way, and the experiences I have shared with them have made me who I am. Growing up in Westport, on the west coast of Ireland had a very important influence on me. The presence of the sea and the mountains really effected who I grew up to me. My lightbulb moment in the last few years was getting a job offer as professional crew on a racing yacht – that was the moment I realised that I could actually sail for a living. In a more subtle way, the slow realisation that I am actually currently living one of my dreams has been very influential.

Which people/ person did influence you the most? 

My parents, my partner and my friends. There must have been something about where we grew up, as a lot of my friends have gone on to really push boundaries, setting up their own businesses or being professional sports people, and this level of commitment has always inspired me. My parents both have their own businesses (my Dad is a mussel farmer and my Mum a stained glass artist) and so for me your life has always been what you make it, you can’t rely on anyone else to hand you things. Also, my partner is extremely good at challenging himself – either with long distance endurance races, or in his business, and to live with someone like that is very inspiring on a daily basis. 

Which historic figure would like to have known/ lived side by side at? 

I would have loved to have met Granuaile. Her legend is everywhere around where I grew up, I think she would have been very interesting to sail with too. I imagine she would teach me a lot about Clew Bay, and winning battles!

What was the toughest decision you’ve had to make in your life? 

I had to decide to leave a well paid job, comfortable setup and a long term relationship to become a professional sailor. It took a long time for that to feel like the right choice, but now I am sure of it.

What do you love doing the most? 

I am a bit of a woman of extremes, I love being at offshore by myself, pushing my limit and racing as hard as I can. But I also love cooking for my family and hanging out at home!

What is the most fascinating thing about your profession? 

The learning! Every single time you go out sailing you learn something new. At the moment I am racing against the very best solo offshore sailors in the world, so I get my ass kicked pretty much every time I compete, but I even enjoy learning to love the process, and appreciating the clarity of knowing what you don’t know…

When you think about Grace O’Malley – what’s the Grace in you? 

I think the Grace in me is manifest in the sailor I am – I compete in a very tough field of both men and women, all of whom consider ourselves sailors, there is no time for genders or no allowances made for being a woman. I also think that Grace was very good at going out and getting what she wanted, and I like to think that I am starting to be like that too.

What would you still like to achieve in life? 

I would like to compete in the solo, non-stop around the world race called the Vendee Globe. I’d also like to have a nice life with my family, where we are happy and healthy. Standard stuff really 🙂

What’s your favourite drink? 

It sounds boring but an ice cold water when you come in from an offshore race tastes amazing. But (very!) shortly after you usually want something stronger….I would go for something refreshing like gin and tonic or whiskey and ginger ale.

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