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Jeanne Socrates becomes world's oldest female solo circumnavigator

by Nancy Knudsen on 8 May 2011
Jeane Socrates route - Cape Town to Cape Town .. .
She's done it! British solo sailor Jeanne Socrates, 68 years and the female answer to the world's oldest male circumnavigator, Japan's Minoru Saito, has crossed her outbound path in the waters to the south west of Cape Town, to make her the oldest female solo circumnavigator.

Only the birds around her witnessed her achievement: 'Under a bright sunny sky, witnessed by a pair of circling albatross, several petrels and a pair of shearwaters, we crossed our December 2nd 2009 path south from Lanzarote towards Cape Town.'

But of course that doesn't mean she can relax. There is still a major weather system threatening between her and her destination of Cape Town, and, instead of celebrating, she's planning to heave-to to survive the coming storm.

Here's the way Jeanne expressed it soon after briefly celebrating her achievement:

'Been spending an age downloading and looking over weather info and options and plotting points/routes on chart to see Implications.... none very good or pleasant!! Basically, although it's pretty rough now, it's going to get even rougher - ESE gale is very likely, offshore from Cape Town on 7th-8th May with 5-8m seas possible.... '

She is expecting even then to have to heave to again sometime tomorrow and overnight into Sunday possibly, when the winds increase and/or swells get too much for comfort, but she is hoping to arrive Cape Town on the 11th May.

While she waits for the seas to roughen, it doesn't stop her from reveling in the natural world around her: 'Just around sunset, we left the rainclouds behind and the sky overhead cleared completely ... to show a lovely crescent moon hanging above the sea.... some bright stars.... and the wind even died down a bit for a time, giving some relaxing sailing in less swell.'

Her just completed circumnavigation followed a fairly long route. She started from from Cape Town, across the Indian Ocean, past Cape Leeuwin, through Bass Strait and Cook Strait to Kauai in Hawaii, then on to Cape Flattery on the west coats of North America, then to Victoria. South from Victoria, in Canada, around Cape Horn to Ushuaia, on to Falklands and back now towards Cape Town.

About Jeanne's voyages:
Jeanne seems to have been sailing circumnavigations for years, so it gets to be confusing to try to keep up with her many voyages. Her last two attempts have been for non-stop circumnavigations, but bad luck has dogged her two attempts, and a previous circumnavigation ground to a halt, literally, when, due to an autopilot failure, her previous boat, also called Nereida, went aground on a Mexican beach just 60 miles short of her final destination.

Her next attempt was to circle the globe solo and non-stop. She set out in October 2009 from the Canary Islands, but had to make unplanned stop because of rigging problems two months later in Cape Town, South Africa. Once there, she found she had to replace the boat’s engine.

Three months later, the hardy grandmother was heading eastward south of Australia sailing directly for Nelson in New Zealand. She ended up in Port Townsend, Wa., for repairs in preparation for her next attempt.

Jeanne, who was born and lives in London, UK, chose Victoria, Canada, to start her next voyage, and set off again in October 2010. By now it was her third attempt at a circumnavigation, and second attempt at a non-stop circumnavigation.

However, bad luck dogged her again, as she suffered a severe knock-down which severely damaged her boat including the snapping of her boom, just 100 nautical miles west of Cape Horn, while hove to waiting for a weather system to pass. Rejecting help from local vessels, she limped into Ushuaia, unaided.

The damage to the yacht was severe, there was little in Ushuaia in the way of facilities, and, at the time, Jeanne was uncertain as to how to proceed. However, with incredible perseverance, she repaired Nereida once again, and set off from Ushuaia heading for Cape Town, where she had previously spent two months replacing her engine.

Somewhere along the way, Jeanne and her team realised that by reaching Cape Town, she would have completed a circumnavigation - by default.

Congratulations Jeanne, well done!

Socrates posts a blog of her journey at www.svnereida.com.

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