Dee Caffari awarded trophy ahead of her fifth circumnavigation, and winds desert regatta

It is an aim of Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week to showcase the regatta’s diverse nature. One of the most significant changes over the last decade or so has been the growing proportion of women taking part. Over 30% of the crews at Cowes are female.

Cowes Week holds an annual Ladies Day and awards a Ladies Day Trophy to celebrate that, and there could be no better person than this year’s winner of the trophy to illustrate what is possible to achieve in sailing from a standing start. Dee Caffari was given the award as she sets out this October on her fifth circumnavigation, this time as part of the crew of the Volvo Ocean Race crew Team SCA.

Accepting the trophy, Caffari commented: “It is very exciting to receive this award following in a long line of women who have got their name on this trophy. To have my achievements listed and recognised, especially with the esteemed company in the room tonight, is very special.”

Caffari’s achievements are remarkable and, as she pointed out, coincidentally have their beginnings with the UKSA, this year’s Cowes Week charity. Although she had no background in sailing she decided to quit teaching aged 26 and learn how to sail, joining the UKSA in 1999 for a course in instructor training and skipper training.

That led on to a job as skipper in the round-the-world Global Challenge Race, then to a record-breaking westabout solo circumnavigation, a highly successful Vendée Globe Race, and then another circumnavigation two-handed with the Barcelona World Race. Now she is part of the all-female crew of Team SCA, one of the best prepared and best funded of the Volvo Ocean Race crews, sailing with top sailors such as Samantha Davies (said to be, though not officially named as, skipper).

Her career demonstrates what is possible in sailing with no prior connections. Since learning the ropes at the UKSA, Dee has also raced in 15 Cowes Weeks, in yachts as varied as J/80s and Farr 65s.

Also at the trophy ceremony yesterday were top amateur sailors such as Gavia Wilkinson-Cox who, with a string of 1st and 2nds this week in the ultra competitive Dragon class, has an almost unassailable lead and looks certain for an overall class win.

Yesterday, the wind deserted the White Group day boat and keel boat classes, but the larger Black Group were able to find a co-operative sea breeze in the western Solent. Meanwhile, media attention was focussed on the Artemis Challenge, an annual exhibition race for IMOCA 60s, the new Volvo 65s and racing multihulls, which raced around the Isle of Wight with some celebrity crews, including Simon Le Bon and his wife, Yasmin, and Zara Phillips and her husband, Mike Tindall.

The race, also foxed by light winds, was shortened at Bembridge, but provided some indication of form among the new VO65s. Abu Dhabi Racing finished first in the class, suggesting that they may deserve the ranking of race favourites, while Chinese-sponsored Dongfeng came 2nd. French skipper Charles Caudrelier and his team bounced back from repairs needed to remedy serious daggerboard and daggerboard case damage after running up on Gurnard Ledge earlier this week.

Team SCA trailed the other Volvo teams but, as they were quick to point out, the real test will be among five of the class next week during the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race, very possibly involving a monstering from the remnants of Hurricane Bertha.