Things could have turned out so differently for Carolijn Brouwer.
After a 12-year hiatus from the Volvo Ocean Race she made a welcome return in the 2014-15 edition as part of the groundbreaking all-female crew Team SCA.
But it so very nearly didn't happen. Following her first lap of the planet with Amer Sports Too in 2001-02, the talented young Dutch sailor went back to her roots – the Olympics.
She'd already represented the Netherlands in the women's 470 class at Sydney 2000, and followed it up with two more tilts at a medal in the Europe class in 2004 and in the Tornado in 2008.
Brouwer was clearly one of the best in the business but a medal was proving elusive.
Becoming a mum in 2011 meant having to sit out the Olympics in London the following year, but when the mixed–crewed Nacra 17 catamaran was announced as a class for Rio 2016 her path looked obvious.
“When the mixed-crew Nacra 17 came out a lot of people thought that was the natural way for me to go,” said Brouwer, 44.
However, another opportunity was arising. “It was quite a difficult choice not to go down that route, but then I got offered this chance to do something special with Team SCA in the Volvo Ocean Race.
“I didn't want to do the Volvo Ocean Race then jump straight into the Olympics with little training so it was one or the other for me, and the opportunity with SCA was too good to miss. It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance.
“In the end I had to be honest with myself – I'd been to three Olympics and not won a medal, and I wasn't prepared to go to a fourth just to wear the team uniform. That helped me make my decision.”
With the draw of the Volvo Ocean Race too strong to ignore, Brouwer was back – and quickly impressed with her super-quick helming, especially during In-Port Races and Leg Starts.
Among her many fans was Charles Caudrelier, skipper of 2014-15 rivals Dongfeng Race Team.
When Charles approached me about joining Dongfeng it was something I couldn't say no toCarolijn Brouwer
When the Frenchman started to build a team for the 2017-18 edition, Brouwer was one of the first on his list of targets – and she was happy to oblige.
“I've always thought mixed teams could be a possibility in the Volvo Ocean Race but it had never happened up until now,” Brouwer added.
“When Charles approached me about joining Dongfeng it was something I couldn't say no to. Not only do I have a chance to sail alongside the guys but also a chance at winning the race. It was an easy decision.”
Like so many of her fellow competitors, the Volvo Ocean Race's incredible level of competition – the best of the best battling it out over eight months of the most intense ocean racing on the planet - is what is so appealing.
“In the last race we struggled in the Southern Ocean leg, losing our fractional code zero sail and then watching the fleet race away from us,” Brouwer said. “I remember being jealous that the rest of the fleet took all the Southern Ocean could throw at them and still emerged at Cape Horn just two miles apart.
“I knew I had to be part of that this time round. I don't need to be leading all the time, but I want to be in the mix. That's what I want to be part of."