Sam Davies, yachtswoman: Bloggin' all over the world
Solo yachtswoman Sam Davies reveals how she keeps her spirits up during the gruelling Vendée Globe race.
Saturday 24 January 2009
She is in fifth place and on the home straight of an incredible voyage which has transfixed both sailors and non-sailors alike. But despite braving extreme danger, severe injury and the incredible isolation of the Southern Ocean, Sam Davies is an adventurer who does not like to take herself too seriously.
The video diary recording her first attempt at the gruelling Vendée Globe round-the-world race shows her dancing on her old yacht Roxy in mountainous seas to the strains of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want To Have Fun".
"I call myself a beginner," she said yesterday as she faced another frustrating day of non-existent winds – rather than huge storms – while trying to maintain her place in the non-stop solo race which has already seen 18 competitors drop out.
Davies, 34, came to the attention of the non-sailing world when she was called upon to aid fellow competitor and friend Yann Eliès who was badly injured when his boat hit a huge wave in the Southern Ocean. Now, with Eliès safely ashore and having negotiated the Southern Ocean single-handed for the first time, she is 300 miles off the coast of Brazil, with the small matter of crossing the Atlantic in winter.
Her focus is to carry on enjoying herself. Speaking to The Independent Davies said: "The whole race has been such amazing fun. I knew I was going to enjoy it. It is a hard race but you have to approach it the way you are. I sail well when I am happy and I'm proud of what I've done."
Despite recovering from an arm injury that caused her to repeatedly black out, she has worn the isolation lightly, as her daily blogs reveal. Davies, a Cambridge engineering masters graduate, has made the most of the wildlife and dazzling sunsets while limiting herself to a single weekly phone call to her French sailor boyfriend Romain Attanasio. She insisted that sailing is a sport in which women can compete equally with men – she and fellow Briton Dee Caffari are both in the Vendée top 10, carrying on the tradition of Ellen MacArthur and Tracy Edwards. "You do need to be physical to sail these boats but you can train for that. But you really need to be strong in the head. Besides there are advantages to being a woman. The men are forever complaining about the trouble they have with their beards and their itching necks. They all worry about how gaunt they look whereas I just look my normal self," she said.
11 November (Day two)
It was pretty rough out yesterday – I saw gusts of 55 knots, and the waves were ENORMOUS. I had set up my strong wind configuration in time, and Roxy hung in under pilot as I braced myself.
13 November (Day four)
Yesterday I took advantage of the calmer, stable conditions to change socks, wash a bit, brush my hair ... it was a treat! I also opened good luck cards that people had put on board.
16 November (Day seven)
I have noticed the lack of company out here. I'm talking about on the water. Since crossing paths with Dee several days ago, I have seen nobody. No ships, birds, flying fish. It's like everyone is on holiday! I know it is Sunday – but still.
20 November (Day 11)
At last the sun is really shining so I have got my bikini out! The trouble is I'm a bit white so I'm piling on the sun cream to protect my skin, and trying to stay in the shade.
22 November (Day 13)
Tomorrow I will cross the Equator, so I'll make my offering to Neptune (he gets GH Mumm champagne and chocolate) to thank him for looking after us so far and to negotiate good winds!
25 November (Day 16)
I had a shower like the boys do yesterday – on the bow in the spray. Not bad – the sea is sooooo warm – but not quite enough spray to rinse my hair! Obviously the last rinse is with a litre of fresh water, so now I am nice and clean with soft skin.
1 December (Day 22)
Yesterday I saw some interesting wildlife. In the morning, Roxy was covered in little squids. So I guessed we had been under attack during the night ... Later on during the day, I saw my first albatross, and even a seal! I didn't realise seals swam so far away from land. Nice to have a bit of company.
4 December (Day 25)
The night was amazing – stunning to be on deck. Roxy was surfing at 25 knots with spray everywhere. The sky was black, but the breaking waves glowed with phosphorescence. It was magical, enhanced by solitude.
7 December (Day 28)
I have now broken my own record of time alone at sea. Before now, it was 26 days (St Nazaire – Cuba). By the end of today it will be four weeks! It's funny, it doesn't seem I have been that long out here.
16 December (Day 37)
The waves were scary, I tried not to look. That way I wouldn't chicken out and reduce sail too much.
18 December (Day 39)
I was stacking a spinnaker in the back of the boat ready for a gybe. Unfortunately, as I was pulling on it, a sail-tie broke, and I went flying backwards, landing my elbow into a transmission box. It hurt so much that everything went black, and I passed out.
19 December (Day 40)
Yesterday, the race director Denis Horeau asked me to divert towards Generali to act as standby to Yann Eliès, who has a serious fracture of his leg. I can't describe my feelings of horror when the reality of what Denis was saying to me hit home. It is a phone call I hoped I would never receive – to find out a fellow competitor and friend is injured and suffering. My bruised elbow suddenly became insignificant, although having been hurt alone on my boat, I know what Yann must be going through.
23 December (Day 44)
I think we are pretty much halfway distance-wise ... I have a confession to make (to my mum.) She's made a lovely Christmas cake, and today I gave in to temptation and I have eaten a piece – a day early! Oooops, sorry! Thanks mummy!
29 December (Day 50)
Today is a sad day because my teacup is broken! The handle fell off during its daily clean.
6 January (Day 58)
A present – a CD called The Girls – full of cheesy girly songs! For the first time in the race I put music full blast on the speakers. It is a great feeling to blast "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun", "Smile", and "I'm So Excited", as Roxy crosses the Southern Ocean at 17 knots.
7 January (Day 59)
We had to wait hours for the news to come through that Jean Le Cam [capsized competitor] was safe, meaning it was an agonising night. The worst part was knowing King Jean was in trouble, but not having further information.
12 January (Day 63)
Roxy and I passed Cape Horn at around 9.30am yesterday! Needless to say, in true Cape Horn style, my rounding of the mythical point was carried out in 40-knot winds and mountainous seas.
13 January (Day 64)
I was down below and heard a scary noise – like the daggerboard was breaking – so I shot up on deck to see what it was. I couldn't believe my eyes as there, zooming past my head, was a fighter jet! It did a couple of circles to say hello.
19 January (Day 70)
I had my CHRISTMAS DINNER today! Finally it was calm enough to cook and serve the special langoustine bisque that Romain had given me. It was delicious, with croutons aux algues (hopefully not the kind on my keel) and "la rouille", even though the presentation left a little to be desired.
20 January (Day 71)
Today has just been ideal cruising holiday conditions – blue sky, sunshine, turquoise sea, calm, 8 knots of wind, 28C air and water temp ... holiday heaven. I wish I could put these conditions into a box and save them for when I'm on holiday!
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