'I'm in 57 knots, and this is forecast to last 12 hours' - an emotional email from Dee Caffari to her team

Dee Caffari is facing the worst weather and the greatest risk of her solo round the world attempt today, as she braves a deep Southern Ocean storm. After receiving a weatherfax last night forecasting winds of 75 knots she decided to head north, but confirmed in an email to her shore team early this morning that she was already in winds of more than 55 knots.

The image above from QuikSCAT clearly illustrates her situation, except that in her present position conditions are much worse than was measured by satellite at 0800GMT. This does, however, vividly show the intense low pressure system heading eastwards towards her. Note, too, that wind vectors in purple are 50 knots, measured at 10m above the sea surface and so up to 20 per cent higher in reality.

This morning’s email revealed the extent of Dee’s worries, and the measures she was taking in preparation.

‘I was heading about 230° and the wind was getting stronger and the barometer had gone from falling to dropping. The new weatherfax came in and showed this low to the south was a dartboard with 75 knots at the centre and I was heading towards it. I knew I had to get out. The centre was 965mb and I was only at 981mb when I was already getting 50-knot gusts.

‘I knew I had to tack and didn’t really relish the opportunity as I had had so many disasters with big seas and big wind. Anyway after half an hour build up I tacked. Not pretty, but no dramas, for a change.

‘So I am now heading north and fortunately Mike [Broughton, Dee’s weather router] was in agreement. I then settled in a steady 45 to 55 knots of breeze and the sun had the cheek to shine! Anyway we were rounding up so badly and every time the rig was getting a hammering from the headsail sheet. The leeward aft lower was already waving away in the sea and wind and the leeward D3 was as slack as you like. I needed to take some load off the rig.

‘I furled the headsail completely and sailed on mainsail alone and made a steady 6 knots without all the smacking and drama of the headsail and sheet and rig, as darkness fell. This breeze is forecast for 12 hours and I am currently sat in 57.6 knots doing 7 knots.

‘I would pay money to get off for a rest right now.’

You can send Dee a message of support here