Women in Yachting – An Interview Series Part 17: Jenny Matthews, Founder of She of the Sea and Legasea

Read here about Jenny Matthews, Founder of She of the Sea and Legasea, how she got started, and how she stays inspired.

As the yachting industry continues to grow, more and more women are making a significant impact on this traditionally male-dominated space. Here, YATCO takes the time to get to know some of these women – from all areas of the market – and highlight the important work that they contribute to the industry. In this interview, we hear from Jenny Matthews, founder of She of the Sea and Legasea.  

After realizing her passion to create high-performance, people-focused environments could be actioned on a much larger scale than on one vessel as a Chief Officer, Jenny has dedicated herself to seeing a diverse, equitable and inclusive yachting industry. Jenny’s work combines her intimate understanding of people and the yachting world with the leading standards, practices and innovators in the sustainability landscape, as well as the wider global conversation on social impact.  

Jenny’s work combines her intimate understanding of people and the yachting world with the leading standards, practices and innovators in the sustainability landscape, as well as the wider global conversation on social impact.  

She of the Sea is an industry resource group connecting and supporting women in the deck and engineering departments. Legasea exists for a single purpose – to see our industry at its best and to leave it better than we found it.

Featuring Jenny Matthews, Founder of She of the Sea and Legasea

What drew you to the yachting world?  

I joined the industry straight from high school and had my first role onboard before I turned 20. At high school, when the careers counsellor asked everyone what they wanted to be when they left, the only answer I could say was ‘Something not boring’. I had a strong background in elite sport and was the coxswain for a national level rowing team, so creating high performance team Encountering the industry happened by chance and things moved very quickly, but there was a deep sense that I had found something that would be the most fantastic adventure. environments was a passion already.

Encountering the industry happened by chance and things moved very quickly, but there was a deep sense that I had found something that would be the most fantastic adventure. 

How did you get your start in yachting?  

Dock walking as a 19-year-old woman who wanted to work in the deck department in 2008 was not an inspiring experience – to say the least! I ended up taking an interior role as my funds got low. Through that experience, it confirmed what I already knew about myself – I am far better suited to the exterior! That role gave me the utmost respect for the interior department. It took me just over two years to finally get my first break on deck and I never looked back.  

Who are some influential people in your life that you look up to? 

Jacinda Ardern is a huge inspiration for so many reasons. Obviously, she is a globally recognized and celebrated female leader, but the reasons I respect her have nothing to do with her gender and absolutely everything to do with how she shows up in her role. While I am not up to date at all with the party-specific politics and policies, I deeply admire the way she can connect to the heart and humanity of some of the most challenging events that New Zealand has seen in a long time. The way she leads with empathy, kindness, and calm, open communication is the most incredible show of strength and character. I also applaud how she does not shy away from sharing her own humanness with the world through social media. Vulnerability and being courageous enough to show up as a whole, messy, tired, complex person in such a high-powered role is spectacular and very rare. 

I deeply admire the way she can connect to the heart and humanity of some of the most challenging events that New Zealand has seen in a long time. The way she leads with empathy, kindness, and calm, open communication is the most incredible show of strength and character.

Within the industry, Captain Kate McCue is right up there for the same reasons. 

What are some challenges you face and how do you overcome them?  

My biggest challenge is not one I face onboard in my role as Chief Officer, but one in the space of creating change through She of the Sea and Legasea. Being completely inspired by the potential of our industry, I have the tendency to want to change the world, make the systems work better, really get things moving, and I find it challenging when this does not happen as quickly as I would like. I also find it challenging to nurture my mental and emotional well-being as I am an ‘all in ‘kind of person. I have the tendency to want to change the world, make the systems work better, really get things moving, and I find it challenging when this does not happen as quickly as I would like.

I have the tendency to want to change the world, make the systems work better, really get things moving, and I find it challenging when this does not happen as quickly as I would like.

Many of the issues being faced in the corporate and crew landscapes – as well as the sense of responsibility I feel – tend to take quite a toll. 

What advice would you give you someone who is starting in the yachting industry?  

Get crystal clear on your reasons for being in the industry and your personal values, practices that assist you and your boundaries.

These things are especially relevant to yacht crew as life onboard is very unique. You quite quickly can become isolated from your usual ‘community’ and support systems. The environment often involves prolonged stretches of stress, lack of rest and recovery and complex social dynamics which inevitably take a toll on your wellbeing. Knowing yourself, your needs and how best to meet them will be an incredible strength to build resilience and get the most out of your career.  

Knowing yourself, your needs and how best to meet them will be an incredible strength to build resilience and get the most out of your career.  

What is the most rewarding/enjoyable element of your job? 

For me, it is the people. I have always thought of our industry and life on board as a fascinating human experiment. It is the most incredible learning environment to get to know yourself, your strengths, teams, performance and most often our biggest challenges / rewards come from the connections and relationships we build with those at the coal face next to us.  

What is your favorite thing about working in the yacht industry? 

It’s pretty spectacular, isn’t it? What other industry in the world is as exciting, as unique- the people, the places, the experiences, the once-in-a-lifetime moments? I am incredibly blessed to have spent most of my adult life living and learning against some incredible backdrops. I also love the diversity of challenges to overcome. For example, I never could have predicted that speaking in front of large audiences at events would be something I would be navigating, or the gut-wrenching conversation when you must let someone go or discipline a peer. It is tough stuff but doing it in the context of yachting does make you pinch yourself every now and then. 

What are you currently working on and what keeps you motivated? 

Through Legasea and She of the Sea, we are currently working on our mentoring program, research, and an Annual Report. The most motivating part of our many projects is the community of individuals we connect with daily – of all genders, departments and sectors.

The most motivating part of our many projects is the community of individuals we connect with daily – of all genders, departments and sectors.

We are especially motivated by those who are out there busting stereotypes and creating change alongside us. Women in the deck and engineering departments, our mentors and mentees, and the incredible, vibrant queer community out there. Hearing about their journeys and adding value where we can is an absolute honor and gives us a lot of hope for the future landscape of the industry

Learn more about Jenny’s work: 

www.sheofthesea.com

www.legasea.org.uk 


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