Sun, 11/15/2015 - 7:30pm

“Ok, I’ve had a stroke, broke my back or maybe had a heart attack, now get us back to the mooring in Edgartown harbor.” 

At the age of 11, Cindy Alten-Delotto’s father said this to her while sailing off Cape Pogue on Chappaquiddick Island. She and her dad were sailing a 38-foot sloop, and Cindy was tasked with getting the boat back to its mooring — alone. This was non-negotiable. Her dad was a former marine and a very direct man. “I did as I was told and got us back to our mooring,” said Cindy, “There was no other option.” This momentous experience helped define her current place in the world. “I’ve been sailing since I was two,” says Cindy. 

One afternoon at Fort Adams in Newport, I’d just finished doing an interview for a story about Rhode Island’s Tall Ship Oliver Hazard Perry. Then, I wandered into a tent. Inside there was a half model of a Volvo Open 65: bunks, navigation station, head, and a cooker — Spartan conditions. Also inside was a lean and attractive woman with a Volvo jacket who looked like she might know something about these boats and the race. She did indeed. Cindy and her husband, Tom, were part of the Marshall boats. They were to greet the fleet and also see them off for the next legs of this grueling around-the-world race. Their job was also to keep spectator boats away from the Volvo 65s. When these things are hooked up, you just can’t be in the way.  

“We met the first two boats off Block Island, Abu Dhabi and Mapfre, and they sailed neck-and-neck into a hole,” said Cindy, “They arrived in Newport about four hours later to a wild scene with wild cheering as Abu Dhabi ghosted across the finish line. They won that leg.” Also, according to Cindy there was lots of “cheering” and “hollering” from the crews when they were met off Block Island. “These guys had just finished a long leg across the Atlantic and were happy to see all of us,” she said. These cutting edge racing boats have a crew of eight; the all women boat — SCA — sailed with a crew of eleven. This is a race of superior boat design, physical endurance, and tactical intelligence. I met the right person in the tent.

Cindy and her husband volunteered their time for this world class sailing event. Their friend Mike Keyworth asked for their help. Mike, along with Brad Read’s team at Sail Newport, are major proponents of sailing in the Ocean State. The logistics to mount this event needed coordination and all the help they could get. Over one hundred thousand visitors came to Fort Adams to see the Oliver Hazard Perry and the Volvo 65s. They were docked across from each other ― a nautical contrast.  Moreover, all involved in this historic and significant maritime experience, delivered. One of the things that impressed Cindy was the willingness of the crews to engage and educate the public about the race. “These racers were so good at answering questions and sharing what the race was like,” she said, “it was also good that each boat won a leg of the race.”

Cindy has a passion for sailing which has its roots in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard. She credits her dad for leading her to this exciting sport. In addition to sailing smaller boats in Edgartown, Cindy started windsurfing in 1975. She had her oldest son in ’83 and in 1984 she competed and won in the Nationals and the North Americans. She was rated tenth in the world. “Three of us got food poisoning in Canada and we still competed and I came back and finished tenth,” she says, “my dad was there and he was so proud. I was so happy!” Her dad followed her to Newport for the Nationals and to Canada for the World’s. “My dad was so supportive of my competing.”

Cindy now races aboard a Shield’s Class boat and also crews aboard a 12-meter yacht in Newport called American Eagle, which is owned by Herb Marshall. In July of 2014 she, Herb and a team of sailors from Newport, chartered the 12 Meter Vim. They went to Barcelona to compete in the Puig 12mR World Championship.  In this very demanding race Cindy was the only female crew member. In this race she found herself at the business end of the headsail and a shroud when her arm was broken―a clean break. Rather than take a ride in a car to the hospital she elected to ride on the back of a Ducati because it would take less time. After getting the broken arm splinted and set, she rejoined the crew to continue racing. She has a competitive nature.

The Caribbean 600 is a 600-mile race around 12 islands in four days. It will be held this winter in February. Cindy will be racing aboard a Swan 56. “My husband is kind of freaked out that I bought a personal locator beacon in case I go overboard,” she says, giggling. Racing boats is dangerous; however, this doesn’t deter Cindy in the least. She has hiked and camped the trails to the top of Maccu Pichu, and after hearing of that adventure, it seems that bashing around the Caribbean on a sailboat for four days seems like a day at the beach. 

Cindy Alten-Delotto is not your standard issue mom, grandmother and wife. Cindy’s sons and husband have their hands full with her. She had to be a worry on her parents. “Once we sailed Sunfishes out of a small cut in Edgartown Harbor into the ocean, then we surfed the boats back into the cut,” she says. “My folks never found out.”

Is she a sailorwoman? ‘Nuff said.

Last week it was announced, that the Volvo Ocean Race will return to Newport in 2018.