Dee Caffari successfully completes first major step towards competing in the Vendée Globe 14/6/07

Dee Caffari has successfully completed her first major step towards competing in sailing’s elite solo race, the Vendée Globe in 2008/9. Her entry into the Calais Round Britain Race on-board Aviva marked her first venture on the Open 60 circuit and a chance to grow in confidence by learning from her other four crew members.

Caffari finished the Calais Round Britain Race in 11 days, 1 hour, 0 minutes and 25 seconds. The race was an important learning opportunity for Caffari, allowing her to experience the high-pressure environment of racing the lightweight, powerful boats in this highly competitive class.

The race was played out in ever-changeable conditions, forcing the competitors to focus significantly on tactics and weather routing. Caffari’s Open 60 Aviva is one of the older generation boats in the fleet and needed to outwit the opposition rather than rely on pure boat speed. The first stages of the race played into her hands as she manoeuvred Aviva into fifth place and tested the faster boats all around her.

Parking up in light winds near Ireland after two days saw the fleet re-group with Caffari finding her work cut out. In the approach to Scotland, Caffari took the decision to sail inshore away from the other boats in the hope that the decision would give her an advantage. This time the weather gods did not favour her and Aviva was stuck in light winds as the fleet raced away. Dealing with this disappointment after such a good start was one of the most important lessons in the race. Despite losing over 180 miles to the next boat Caffari continued to dig in and slowly claw Aviva back into the race and they found favourable winds in the North Sea.

Looking at the long-term benefits, this set back demonstrated that risks can be worth taking and, whilst losses can seem catastrophic at the time, the potential speed of the Open 60 boats allow skippers to recover from bad days and should never give up hope. It will be Caffari’s ability to bounce back from disappointments that will prove to be a vital part of her armoury to succeed in the longer races in the future.

Dee Caffari said of her performance, “This race has been a complete roller coaster for me, both in terms of Aviva’s race position and my learning. I have learnt how to deal with different situations and where I can improve and grow stronger psychologically. I have used the experienced crew on-board to absorb as much knowledge as possible and from that perspective the race was a great success for me. I have gained a tremendous amount of knowledge in sailing this type of boat and have now experienced the intensity of racing at this level. I am pleased with the progress I made in terms of my confidence and getting the most out of an Open 60.”

Harry Spedding, campaign manager, said, “Dee has been well aware that one of the shortfalls from her previous sailing experience has been racing lightweight powerful boats, and knowing when to push hard and when it is prudent to back off the pedal. In this race pushing hard was a constant thing, the course is too short and the weather has been too light to warrant any backing off at all. Learning when to back off will come later. The major gain that Dee has made from the Calais Round Britain Race is the leap in her personal confidence.”

Nigel King, Open 60 trainer, said: “The thing that has been evident throughout the race is the way that Dee has grown in confidence on an Open 60 and also as the role of skipper. I think it is important that we continue to develop Dee’s knowledge in strategic and tactical decision-making and to develop a greater understanding of the full potential of the light weight and powerful Open 60 class. Given the nature of the challenges on the mind and body of single-handed racing, it is also important to prioritise what will really make a different