Solo yachtswoman Dee Caffari rounds Cape Horn and prepares for Southern Ocean

Solo yachtswoman Dee Caffari today rounded Cape Horn and braced herself for the next 80 days braving the treacherous conditions in the Southern Ocean. Having recently overcome problems with her autopilot which had threatened to halt the challenge, the 32-year-old’s bid to become the first woman to sail single handed non stop westabout round the world enters its next crucial phase.

Caffari’s voyage, The ‘Aviva Challenge’, started on 20 November and she has already spent six weeks alone on the oceans. Her voyage has not been without incident; she has fought a tropical cyclone, traversed the erratic weather conditions of the doldrums and handled faults with her equipment that nearly stopped the project in the 7,800 miles since leaving Portsmouth, UK.

The infamous Cape Horn is a maritime landmark and ’rounding the horn’ is an achievement in itself for most sailors. For Dee it signals the start of her upwind fight against the belt of depressions that roll around the bottom of the world unobstructed by land. Luckily for Dee and ‘Aviva’ the weather conditions for rounding the horn are good.

Mike Broughton, Aviva Challenge Weather Router explains: “There is high pressure that has been forming over Tierra del Fuego bringing northerly winds of about 15-20 knots. Good news for Dee as she negotiates the strong tidal currents of the Straits of the Estrecho de la Maire, prior to turning right towards Cape Horn.”

Once in the Southern Oceans, Dee will be constantly battling against the prevailing winds and currents, this results in violent movement of the yacht through the water, so sleep is difficult and the threat of injury increased. The waves can reach heights of 40ft or more and she will need to be on her guard for icebergs. When conditions are particularly rough she will find herself sailing up the face of waves only to ‘freefall’ into the trough of the next. Large volumes of icy cold water will crash over the deck with enough force to bend stanchions* and sweep Dee off her feet if she is caught out.

At times she will be the most isolated human on the planet, so Dee will be drawing on her extensive heavy weather experience and using all the modifications made to Aviva, such as the wireless auto-pilot controller, to stay safe and avoid injury and damage to the gear and yacht.

Before her departure, Dee identified the perils of the Southern Ocean as the key part of her voyage and she can expect to reach the extreme limits of her physical and psychological tolerance before she returns to the relative comfort of the South Atlantic.

Speaking as she made the epic turn into the Southern Ocean, Dee said: “I have already encountered some awful conditions and had to cope with plenty of tests so far, but the next 80 days or so will ultimately decide whether I am successful in completing the voyage. I have experienced the Southern Ocean once before but that was with 17 crew members, so it is pretty daunting to know that I will be all alone tackling this unforgiving environment.”