Solo yachtswoman Dee Caffari begins voyage to take round the world 'first'

Round the World yachtswoman Dee Caffari set sail on Saturday from Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth on her bid to set the record to be the first woman to sail single-handed, non-stop around the world against the prevailing winds and currents.

The 32 year old, who is being sponsored on her quest by Aviva, the international savings, investments and insurance group, will spend the next 120 – 170 days at sea as she attempts her non-stop westabout circumnavigation.

Immediately prior to her departure at Gunwharf Quays, Canon David Brindley, Bishop of Portsmouth, blessed Caffari’s yacht Aviva before she left under a shower of confetti and to the sound of cannon fire. Her shore team is headed by Sir Chay Blyth and includes Andrew Roberts (project director), Mike Broughton (weather forecaster/router), and Harry Spedding (personal mentor), all of whom were on the quayside to wish her ‘bon voyage’.

Caffari will spend the first two-three days sailing to the official start line off Ushant in north-west France and negotiating her first test along the route, the busy shipping lanes of the English Channel. After Caffari passes the start line, she will then sail down through the Atlantic towards Cape Horn.

Speaking before her departure, Caffari said: “After all the sea trials and preparations, the moment is finally here and I can’t wait to get going. I know that the next few months will throw some difficult challenges at me, but I’m fully prepared for the test and would like to thank everyone involved for helping to make this possible. It has been a dream of mine to complete a solo circumnavigation and I’m really excited by what lies ahead.”

For the 26,000-mile ‘Aviva Challenge’, former school-teacher Caffari will be sailing alone the 72ft yacht which she skippered, with a crew of 18, in last year’s Global Challenge race. The yacht has been modified to enable her to sail it single-handedly and it has been designed particularly to survive the treacherous conditions she will face during approximately 80 days in the Southern Ocean. Throughout her voyage, Caffari will face some of the toughest physical challenges in the sport, including punishing 40ft waves, extremes of temperature and severe lack of sleep.

Sir Chay Blyth, who is heading Caffari’s shore team and was the first man to complete this route 34 years ago, said: “Gunwharf Quays is where Dee started her last round the world voyage in the Global Challenge so it seems fitting that she starts here once again. 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.”