TODAY |

American sailor circumnavigating NZ to help Kiwi kids in care have a maritime adventure

When American solo-sailor Elana Connor arrived in New Zealand waters in December 2019, she was intending to stay just a few months to see out the cyclone season.

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Elana Connor is raising funds to give children raised in a care a 10-day Spirt of Adventure voyage. Source: Seven Sharp

Then the pandemic struck, and she was stuck on her boat, in a strange land.

In March 2020, she had left Great Barrier Island bound for the Marlborough Sounds when the news came through.

“I got a text message on my phone to say the country had gone into lockdown the day before and to stay where you are,” she told Seven Sharp.

She made for Tauranga to hunker down, with her circumnavigation of the globe on hold.

Rather than give up in despair, Elana decided to do something positive with her unexpected situation.

The plucky sailor decided to sail in a figure eight around New Zealand to support a cause close to her heart.

Back home in America, Elana endured a turbulent childhood.

“By the time I was 15 things in my home were just so bad that I couldn't function anymore, so I knew I needed to get away.”

She lived in custodial limbo - at friends' homes and in foster care.

Source: TVNZ

“Finally, it got too much for me and I tried to commit suicide, and the family I was staying with took me to a hospital and that's what it took for the care system to take custody of me.”

Working night shifts to put herself through high school, Elana became the first in her family to earn a college degree, and a job in Silicon Valley.

Seven years ago, she hopped aboard a sailboat for the first time and the rest is history.

Now, the adventurer is raising funds to send Kiwi kids raised in care on a 10-day Spirit of New Zealand voyage.

So far, she's raised enough for 20 young people to experience her daily life.

As her voyage continues, she has two goals - to inspire children raised in care to follow their dreams on sea or land and to inspire Kiwis to support them.