Eight Bells: Gloria Borrego

Published on February 12th, 2024

Whitbread Around-the-World Race sailor, America’s Cup teammate, and in-demand marine engineer Gloria Aurora Borrego reluctantly passed away on February 4 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Gloria started the new year working characteristically hard, energized by her work with Navico Group. She was as gobsmacked as the family and friends who flew to her side to find herself knocked down by sudden illness in mid-January after traveling for work.

She was immediately surrounded by deep love and admiration and was able to share land, sea, and even work stories with her tribe in her final days while swept from the helm of her amazing life by the rogue wave of advanced cancer. Gloria would be 63 years old today.

As young as the age of nine, growing up in Texas and California, Gloria loved to take things apart, investigate how they worked and put them back together. Her parents allowed her to “go for it” and her innate curiosity first took her to automotive engine school and into the NASCAR racing pits. Her fascination with fast was ignited.

Gloria seemed to smell the ocean calling and headed to Key West, Florida where she got wind of the art and addiction of sailing. She brought her recently earned US Coast Guard captain’s license with her to the Keys and found that her excitement for engine systems added much-needed value aboard commercial and racing sailboats, fishing vessels, and powerboats.

She included a stint driving a training and support tender alongside Diana Nyad, as the record-setting distance swimmer pursued her quest to swim non-stop from Cuba to Key West.

So many projects and only so many hours -”Okey Dokey Smokey,” as Gloria would say with her signature grin and giggle, before disappearing back down a hatch to make things right. It was her sheer talent and love of the game that literally sent her off to the races.

Gloria was crew on the 1993-94 Whitbread Round-the-World Race when preeminent sailor Dawn Riley took over as skipper after the first leg. Her specialty as engineer aboard the all-women’s entry showcased her boundless energy, courage, and McIver-like ‘gift of fix.’

Her infectious laugh and ability kept any situation light, fully entertaining her Heineken teammates as talk-show host of an improvised morning show, interviewing crew and even waking up the occasional grumpy sailor with a 10-foot-long batten. Gloria served the team well on every level and impressed the competition as well, as they raced around the globe.

Following the round-the-world race, Gloria joined Dawn and a few Heineken sailors as part of America 3’s all-women’s team for the 1995 America’s Cup campaign in San Diego. She worked alongside many of the winning 1992 America’s Cup shore crew to support the women sailors on the water.

The seasoned sailors challenged management with the fact that there were very few women on the “rest of the team.” And when told it was because there weren’t any specialists at that level, Gloria broke out her C.V., filled with ‘sea cred’ and continued to break molds, this time at the America’s Cup level.

She served as the engineer aboard the SWATH support tender Chubasco, bringing her ever-present toolbag and expertise. In these, as in all her endeavors, Gloria would establish lifelong friendships that would continue to reach friends and peers worldwide to this day.

In 1999, she was tapped by fellow A3 team member and naval architect Carol Vernon to join her on an 83-foot ketch cruising around the world. As they made their way from Martinique to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands, engineer/mate Gloria waved her magic-fix wand over everything, as there was much to fix.

She also led the fishing efforts with aplomb, taught sushi prep and schooled boat repairs to the attentive crew. The next year Gloria became the owner’s rep on a large power yacht under construction in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam. Gloria shared that it was a wild time, navigating cultural differences and Vietnamese designers who were new to women in charge and yachting in general.

Gloria brought her professional passion home to the US, working with her own established company, GloTechnologies. Her client list included yacht owners/managers and the marine industry at large, serving all for decades with innovation and tricks of the trade often originated and applied while working upside down, topside or below, on a boat in need, surfing giant waves.

A 2006 year-long break in Valdivia, Chile, refreshed Gloria’s love of world-class projects. She worked again with Carol Vernon on the construction of a new 60-foot powercat, ultimately captaining the completed boat through the Panama Canal.

Gloria finished strong and at the top of her game, working as an application engineer and training manager for Navico Group since 2017. Her focused efforts with the company included systems integration, power management, digital control & monitoring, networked devices, and RV and marine electronics with brands including CZone, Mastervolt and more.

She was still talking about inverters and battery systems a week prior to her passing. When asked only those short weeks ago what she was most grateful for in reflecting on her professional career and her adventurous life well lived, Gloria definitely took her time in responding; and she answered in a clear and strong voice, “That I learned to sail.”

Gloria’s much-loved niece, Adriane Borrego, serves as a real-time, dedicated example of Gloria’s direct influence on women working in the world of engineering. Several years ago, Adriane was encouraged by Gloria to “play with her wiring harnesses” during their adventures together.

Adriane is now an electrical wire harness technician manager for the MQ-25 Stingray development project at The Boeing Company in Mesa, Arizona. The MQ-25 Stingray will be developed for the Navy as an unmanned aerial refueling drone. (The drone is roughly the size of the F18 aircraft that it will refuel in midair.) Adriene was promoted in May 2022 after leading the electrical wire harness technicians in the AH64 Apache Helicopter program for two years.

Gloria’s remarkably devoted family, friends and fans are working together to develop a lasting legacy in Gloria’s name. Please feel free to respond with ideas, stories and helpful industry contacts to A3 teammate Diana Klybert at earthtodi1@gmail.com.

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