Want to set a world record? Try going the wrong way
A former schoolteacher received a hero's send off as she left Portsmouth on an attempt to become the first woman to sail single-handed around the world the "wrong way".
Dee Caffari will be hoping to emulate the feat of her mentor, Sir Chay Blyth, 34 years ago by sailing her 72ft yacht, Aviva, from east to west, against the prevailing winds and tides.
Already drawing comparisons with Britain's first lady of the sea, Dame Ellen MacArthur, the 32-year-old is bracing herself for up to 170 days afloat. During this time, she will brave 80 days in the treacherous Southern Ocean where she will face 40ft waves, and gale force winds and endure chronic sleeplessness and fatigue. Hundreds of people lined Gunwharf Quays in her home port yesterday while a flotilla of small boats bobbed alongside her in support.
After leading a procession of drummers to the yacht, a clearly emotional Ms Caffari said: "I am going to sail real fast so I can see you all again very soon. I am going to sail safely and bring Aviva back safe, we are going to look after each other."
The 26,000-mile voyage is billed as the last "first" still to be achieved by a yachtswoman.
Sir Chay will lead her shore team which will be in 24-hour contact with the boat. They will provide up-to-the-minute forecasts, charts and motivation with the help of the latest in internet and satellite technology. Ms Caffari will post a daily update on her web log charting her progress - both physical and emotional.
She will spend the next two to three days sailing to the official start line off Ushant in north west France where, earlier this year, Dame Ellen completed her triumphant world record circumnavigation aboard her trimaran B&Q.
The first big test will be safely negotiating the busy shipping lanes of the English Channel.
She will then sail down through the Atlantic towards Cape Horn.
Sir Chay paid tribute to his protégé whom he met when she skippered the same yacht in the 2004-05 Global Challenge. That time she led a crew of 18. "It's unusual to have the opportunity to do a first and this will be a first time grand achievement. Next time we see her she'll be back as a world record holder, having accomplished a remarkable feat, putting her firmly into the record books," he said.
Ms Caffari, whose family are Maltese-Italian, was a PE teacher in West Yorkshire before moving to the south coast. There she fell in love with the sea, eventually quitting her job to become a professional sailor. She cut her teeth at the helm of Aviva during the round the world challenge devised by Sir Chay in which non-sailors pursue their sailing dreams. Her greatest test came when one of her crew members, a primary school teacher, fell seriously ill and had to be airlifted off in the Southern Ocean. He survived and was due on the quayside to wave her off yesterday.
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