Dee Caffari to skipper mixed crew in the Volvo Ocean Race

14 Jun

I was thrilled to read that the British sailor Dee Caffari  had secured sponsorship for the upcoming Volvo Ocean Race. Thrilled on so many levels. Up until now there have only been five confirmed entries; not enough for a decent boat race in my opinion. Dee’s entry makes it six so we are getting closer. Two more entries would be great. Dee is without a doubt one of the most experienced sailors in the world and certainly the most experienced female sailor. Again that’s my opinion. There are two more reasons why this is such great news. No let’s make that three. Dee will be leading a mixed male and female team which is super news, and the other bit of excellent news is that they are sailing for a good cause. They are dedicated to the issue of the health of the oceans. Lastly, and by no means least, Dee is a superb human being, an extremely competitive sailor, and a terrific ambassador for the sport of sailing. Her friend and fellow Vendée Globe skipper American Richie Wilson had this to say about her. “We have no one in the US who has anywhere near her level of offshore experience. Dee being skipper of a Volvo boat makes me excited for the race and for sailing in general. Knowing that she will be back in the game at a high level, and as skipper who will have a voice, and for a good cause with good sponsors backing her, is simply the best news sailing has had in a long time. Go Dee!”

Returning from her successful solo wrong way circumnavigation
So let’s break this down by starting to look at her experience to lead such a team. Dee first came on the global sailing scene in 2004 when she skippered a yacht in the BT Global Challenge, a circumnavigation race for paying amateur sailors that went westabout around the world – in other words against the prevailing winds. The race finished in 2005 and shortly thereafter Dee announced that she was going to take one of the BT Global Challenge yachts and single-handedly sail it around the world, also against the prevailing winds. Her 72-foot yacht was a beast to handle (remember the boat was designed to be sailed by a full crew) but Dee prevailed and after 178 days at sea she returned to England. It was an extraordinary accomplishment and she was awarded an MBE in recognition of her achievement.

In 2008/09 Dee competed in the grueling Vendée Globe, a solo, non-stop race around the world that leaves Cape Horn to Port. For that edition of the Vendée there were 30 starters but only 11 finishers. Dee finished in sixth place, again another extraordinary accomplishment especially when you consider that she was racing against some of the most experience solo sailors in the world.
Barcelona World Race aboard Aviva

Not content to sit back and relax she undertook the Barcelona World Race, a double-handed, non-stop lap of the planet starting and finishing in Barcelona. The race started in 2010 and when she and her co-skipper Anna Corbella crossed the finish line in April 2011 Dee again entered the record books as the only woman to have circumnavigated the globe, non-stop, three times. Her fifth circumnavigation was as part of the all-female crew aboard Team SCA in the last Volvo Ocean Race.

So let’s just agree that that is a whole lot of sea miles and a whole lot of experienced gained along the way. So far there is only one announced female in the upcoming VOR which starts later this year from Alicante, Spain and my guess is that Dee will be the sole female skipper in the race. Rather than go with an all-female crew she has decided to mix it up and go with half female and half male. Under the new rules they can have five women and five men on the crew – as opposed to an all-male team which limits the number of crew to seven. I think it’s a great strategy and have for many years maintained that there are some incredibly talented female sailors out there that have been overlooked simply because of their gender.

The name of her boat/campaign will be “Turn the Tide on Plastic” and it reflects their interest in focusing attention on the health of the oceans. I applaud this as a sailor who has witnessed an incredible decrease in the amount wildlife and increase in the amount of pollution out on the open ocean. Her campaign is backed by the Mirpuri Foundation and Ocean Family Foundation, both dedicated to the issue of ocean health. I am not familiar with the Ocean Family Foundation but I do know about the Mirpuri Foundation. It is a non-profit organization set up by Portuguese businessman and philanthropist Paulo Mirpuri with the aim of making the world a better place for future generation and they have been doing great work for many years.

So this is excellent news all around and I am really looking forward to seeing who she chooses to be on her team and how things unfold in the race. I think I am correct in saying this but the last time there was a female skipper leading a mixed team in the Volvo Ocean Race was back in 1977 when Clare Francis skippered the Swan 65 ADC Accutrack. There is a funny story that I remember from that race. Clare was racing with her husband, who was French. Back then the communications were done by single sideband radio and apparently Clare loved the “phone”. One evening Clare was chatting for all to hear when she got a crack in her voice. Using a very British saying she said, “excuse me I think I have a frog in my throat.” OK some people might not get it but it really is funny. Sorry I digress.

I echo Rich Wilson’s comments. The addition of Dee Caffari to any event is excellent news for the event. I am a fan of the Volvo Ocean Race and now, like Richie, I will be watching the race even closer. This is big news for the VOR and big news for our sport.

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Brian Hancock – owner Great Circle Sails

This article was syndicated from Great Circle Sails Blog

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