Reality Check for Dee Caffari

Dee Caffari on Aviva during the Transat Jacques Vabre
One week into her career as a full blown Open 60 solo sailor, Dee Caffari has been handed a harsh reality check over the demands of elite offshore racing which are now taking their toll on both her emotional and physical well-being.

Following the morale boosting success in overtaking Aviva’s closest rivals Spirit of Canada and Great American III, 12th placed Dee, who has been beating to windward non-stop for 24 hours, has been plunged back into despondency and is having her resolve sorely tested as she battles her way north.

To keep her spirits in check, Dee is focussing on 14 December when her new Open 60, under construction at Hakes Marine in Wellington is launched. This, combined with a resolutely philosophical approach to the trials of her first Open 60 racing experience, is keeping her on track.

Dee Caffari’s latest comments, received at 12.30 UTC:

'I’m struggling to maintain ‘me’ in these conditions. I know I should eat but I don’t really want to eat anything and I know I should drink but I can’t be bothered to make anything. When you don’t sleep and you’re tired, it all compounds in conditions like these. But it’s all useful practice that I can use next time.

'It makes me laugh that I spent 178 days at sea on the Aviva Challenge and 70 per cent of it was upwind but it was pure luxury compared to this. The boat is so different and, when she is crashing to windward, it is a really uncomfortable environment to be in. It feels as though it is falling apart, the windows are leaking and it’s miserable.

'We are taking a lot of water over the top of the boat. Everything feels wet and filthy. Even the flying fish are confused – they don’t know whether to fly or get carried in the waves. Life is pretty uncomfortable.

'I have worked really hard to get past Spirit of Canada and Great American III and now we are all going upwind, they are going to go a lot faster and I cannot get my boat to go any faster so I am going to lose all those miles which is a bit demoralising.

'There is still a lot of scope in this race but at the moment it is all a bit depressing. If I was going the other way it would be brilliant. Blue skies, strong breeze and good surf but crashing into it is miserable.

'The whole process this week has been really good because I have learned so much. Knowing what I struggle with and finding out what I want the new boat to do and how different it should be has been really worthwhile. The new Aviva is due in the water on the 14 December and that is an added incentive to keep going in the right direction.

'I have discovered that in my reading of the weather I am still lacking in confidence and am easily swayed. I find it hard to stick to what I think and why I think it even though I have done ok so far. I just need to do more of it. I am also finding it difficult to predict where I will be in a few days compared with everyone else in the fleet but hopefully that will also become easier as I get more solo miles under my belt.'