Retired lecturer and grandmother Jeanne Socrates plans her third solo circumnavigation
Occasionally a long-distance voyager is described as ‘the new Moitessier’. Usually that just means that they’ve been at sea for a long time, not that they’ve emulated the multiple world-girdling of the French single-hander who was lining up to win the Golden Globe race but decided he’d prefer not to stop.
But someone who really is shaping up to be heir to Bernard Moitessier is British sailor and two-times solo circumnavigator Jeanne Socrates. She can’t seem to give up sailing alone round the world.
Last month she celebrated her arrival in Tasmania last month after a 56-day Southern Ocean single-handed crossing from Cape Town in Nereida, her Najad 380. Socrates, a retired mathematics lecturer and a grandmother aged 68, is heading north from New Zealand to the US or Canada, where she says she will prepare for her third solo round the world voyage.
She reports that the Southern Ocean crossing was ‘tough’, and that she encountered several bad storms. “Unfortunately I lost my series drogue early on, so had to heave to several times under mainsail alone in winds around 40 knots and seas of 6-7m or more. All sustained without problem.”
Jeanne Socrates’s story is an incredible one, and one that should give cheer to all women sailors. She and her husband took up sailing when she was in her late forties. Socrates began sailing alone after her husband died of cancer in 2003. “I didn’t set out to be a single-handed sailor but I quickly learned that if I wanted to keep doing it I couldn’t wait around for crew or help,” she says. “Now I’ve got a system that works for me.”
She made her first solo circumnavigation in 2007 in a Najad 361 but lost her boat after 25,000 miles when she grounded north of Acapulco. She bought another Najad, the slightly larger 380, with the insurance money and decided to sail round the world again.
Her second was an attempt to sail round the world non-stop eastabout from the Canary Islands, but she was knocked down after rounding Cape Horn and forced to divert to Ushuaia to make repairs. She continued to Cape Town, closing the circle of her outbound track from the Canary Islands en route to South Africa and earlier this year headed onwards across the Southern Ocean.