British yachtswoman Dee Caffari has set sail from the UK ahead of her record attempt to become the first woman to sail solo, non-stop around the world in both directions. The 35 year-old skipper and her 60-foot yacht Aviva are heading to Les Sables d’Olonne, France where she will start the Vendée Globe yacht race on 9 November and her attempt to set a double world first.
The former PE teacher from Hertfordshire sailed into the record books in May 2006 when she became the first woman to circumnavigate the globe solo, non-stop and the ‘wrong way’ (against the prevailing winds and currents). Honoured with an MBE for her achievement Caffari, with the continued support of her sponsor Aviva, the world’s fifth largest insurance group, is now challenging herself to sail single-handedly around the world ‘the right way’ by competing against 29 other boats in the 2008/09 Vendée Globe.
Caffari was waved off the dock from her Aviva Ocean Racing team headquarters in Gosport, Hampshire by a group of children from Alverstoke Junior School and St Mary’s Junior Sailing Club, of which Caffari is the Patron. The Swallows and Amazons after-school club at Alverstoke followed Caffari’s adventures in 2005 by sending regular messages of support throughout the 178-day Aviva Challenge voyage. On her return, Caffari went to meet the children and told them about her Vendée Globe plans.
To mark the solo skipper’s departure from the UK, the children presented Caffari with an old friend and lucky mascot ‘Sizzles the bear’. Sizzles has already sailed around the world with Caffari once on the Aviva Challenge and will be joining her again for the gruelling Vendée Globe. On completing the race Sizzles is likely to be the only teddy bear to have sailed non-stop around the world in both directions.
Dee Caffari said from the dockside:
‘I can’t quite believe that I won’t be back on British land until Aviva and I have sailed around the world. Fingers crossed I’ll be back next spring as a new world record holder. We’ve spent the last 18 months preparing for the Vendée Globe and I can’t wait to get out to the start. I’m both nervous and excited. My focus is on finishing the race and completing the world record but I also want to challenge the other 29 skippers taking part, particularly the six other Brits.’
The solo skipper added:
‘The Swallows and Amazons have been great supporters of my sailing adventures, throughout the Aviva Challenge and now as I head off on the Vendée Globe. It’s fantastic that they have waved me off and I’m really touched that they trust me with Sizzles - I will do everything I can to bring him safely home as a record breaking teddy bear!’
Richard Baker-Jones, who manages the Swallows and Amazons sailing club said:
‘Dee is such an inspirational person, as a sailor and as a role model. The children think she is wonderful and are really excited to be here to watch her and Aviva set sail on another round the world voyage. We’ll all be logging on daily to find out how she’s doing and shall be on the dockside to welcome her (and Sizzles) back.’
Earlier this month Caffari launched the Dee Caffari Education Pack, a teacher’s resource that incorporates National Curriculum activities in literacy, numeracy, geography, science, history, art and I.C.T into information about Dee Caffari’s record attempt. Alverstoke Junior School, alongside eleven others in the local region, will be using the pack in class as Caffari sails around the world.
The pack is available for all teachers and parents to download at www.avivaoceanracing.com