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Shirley Robertson talks to trail blazing British yachtswoman Dee Caffari

by Shirley Robertson 11 Nov 2021 05:32 PST 12 November 2021
James Harayda & Dee Caffari racing Sun Fast 3300 Gentoo © Rick Tomlinson

In this month's edition of the podcast, Shirley Robertson sits down face to face with one of offshore sailing's most accomplished sailors, as she talks to British offshore trailblazer, Dee Caffari.

Caffari's achievements are well documented, she holds multiple 'firsts', she's sailed around the planet six times, completed two Volvo Ocean Races, spent months alone at sea sailing 'the wrong way around' and finished a Vendee Globe in its most attritional edition ever. And she's achieved all of that after a sudden and unexpected career change in her mid twenties...:

"I don't fit the mould, I think that's what confuses everybody, and they can't pigeonhole me, they can't put me into a box so I always feel on the outside a little bit. I grew up dancing, I didn't grow up sailing!"

From the outset, Robertson and Caffari's discussion is frank and honest. Dee reveals the catalysts that saw her turn away from a successful and established career to take a chance on making it in the world of sailing. Her story is inspiring, and before long she was skippering a yacht of amateurs in the 2004 Global Challenge race.

That successful endeavour kick-started an unparalleled career that first saw her become the first woman ever to sail around the world solo non-stop against the prevailing winds and currents. From there a Vendee Globe campaign onboard "Aviva" lead to a sixth place finish in an edition of the gruelling race that saw just eleven boats complete the course.

"In 2008 there were thirty entries, and only eleven finished, completed the race. In the war of attrition, which the Vendee is known for, the odds are pretty much always against you. But for me the big thing was to stand in the skippers' line up! I hadn't grown up in that environment and I'd literally just exchanged my 42 ton steel tank for an 8 ton carbon fibre race machine!"

It is undeniable that both Robertson and Caffari have forged incredibly successful sailing careers, in a world that is, also undeniably, male-centric. Talk therefore inevitably turns towards this aspect of the sport, as Caffari offers some enlightening insights into her first Volvo Ocean Race campaign with all-women campaign Team SCA. The pair share the opinion that it's a great shame it needs to be discussed, but that there are clearly very limited opportunities for women in the professional world of sailing.

Staying with the Volvo Ocean, Caffari then discusses the 2017-18 edition that saw her skipper a young crew onboard "Turn the Tide on Plastic" before the pair finally reflect on the extraordinary nature of Caffari's career and the landmarks she has achieved.

This edition of the podcast is in two parts and is available to listen to below or via the podcast page of Shirley’s own website, at www.shirleyrobertson.com/podcast or via most popular podcast outlets, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcast and aCast.

The podcast is produced and written by Tim Butt - for further enquires, please contact podcast@shirleyrobertson.com. Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/sailingpodcast)

Part 1

Part 2

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