Marathon runner Lisa Perkin keeps on raising the bar 

Lisa Perkin likes a good challenge — it keeps her out of trouble.

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After running 16 marathons and completing her first Iron Man triathlon in 2010, she needed a new bar to lift. Why not sail halfway around the world?

Bay Area sailing enthusiasts anxious for next year’s America’s Cup were given an appetizer this past weekend when nine of 10, 68-foot yachts competing in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race glided into Jack London Square in Oakland, completing the sixth of eight legs in the grueling, across-the-globe race.

Among the 18 crewmembers that led the “New York” boat to a third-place finish in the race’s Qingdao, China to Oakland leg was Perkin, 42, a SOMA resident with an appetite for the impossible.

“I like doing things that the average person might not consider doing,” Perkin said. “I’d rather do something that’s twice as hard.”

Sailing has been part of Perkin’s life since she learned how to steer dinghies as an 11-year-old at camp in North Carolina. But offshore yacht racing wasn’t on her to-do list until she watched boats from the seventh-biennial Clipper race sail into the Bay two years ago.

The race had immediate appeal: The number of people who’ve sailed across the globe is less than those who’ve climbed Mt. Everest. And it proved to be dangerous last Saturday after a massive wave injured four people aboard one of the competing yachts about 400 nautical miles from the coast. The injuries to two of the crewmembers were so severe they needed to be rescued via the Coast Guard on Monday.

Perkin couldn’t take a full year away from her gig as an independent sale consultant in the wine industry to complete the entire 40,000-mile race, which kicked off in Southampton, England, July 31, 2011. Instead, she chose three of the contest’s eight legs since competitors are not required to sail the entire race.
She first joined her boat in Rio de Janeiro on Sept. 10 before sailing across the Atlantic Ocean to Cape Town, South Africa in 19 days. She then returned to San Francisco for a few months before rejoining the crew in Gold Coast, Australia, where they set sails for Thailand, China and eventually Oakland on Feb. 4.

Perking said the biggest challenge might be returning to civilian life after nearly two months at sea.

“That’s why I signed up for Iron Man Arizona,” she said. “So that I could immediately get into a routine and focus.”

Each of the race’s yachts will be on display in the Jack London Square April 12-14.

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Paul Gackle

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