Business as usual as round the world yachtswoman celebrates Christmas 6,000 miles from the UK
Solo yachtswoman Dee Caffari will experience a Christmas like no other this year as she spends the festive season alone on board her yacht, Aviva, preparing for the next crucial phase of her solo circumnavigation, The Aviva Challenge.
This is the second Christmas in a row that Caffari, 32, has spent sailing the ‘wrong way’ round the world. Last Christmas she was skippering the same yacht with a crew of amateur sailors during the Global Challenge. Then she ate ‘boil in the bag’ baked beans and sausages for Christmas dinner and the inter-yacht Christmas carol concert with other teams had to be cancelled due to an unscheduled storm.
This year Caffari will be completely alone, attempting to become the first woman to sail non-stop round the world from east to west, but thankfully she has a specially prepared Christmas menu of roast chicken and dauphinoise potatoes with peas and carrots, followed by Christmas pudding with brandy sauce.
Caffari always knew that loneliness would be an issue during her record attempt. At times the physical challenge of sailing a 72ft yacht alone is superseded by the psychological challenge and Christmas will be no exception. Instead of being surrounded by family and friends, the solo skipper will be preparing to round Cape Horn and enter the notorious Southern Ocean, approximately 7,000 miles from home. She will spend Christmas day going about her usual tasks as she readies herself for the treacherous conditions she will undoubtedly face once she ‘turns the corner’.
In amongst the endless lists of chores, Caffari will try to make time to open a small collection of Christmas presents which were packed onboard before she left, as well as decorating the yacht’s cabin with Christmas decorations. She will also speak to her family for the first time since she left Portsmouth over a month ago, something the lone yachtswoman is particularly looking forward to.
Speaking as she contemplated her unusual Christmas, Caffari was putting on a brave face: “Christmas is traditionally a time for being surrounded by family and friends and I will certainly miss that this year. However, I will speak to my mother and sister at some point during the day and that will give me a huge psychological boost at an important time in my voyage. I was always prepared to be away over Christmas but it’s these special days that really bring home the enormity of what I’m attempting. It’s not going to be easy, all on my own in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean but, hopefully, I’ll be able to have my own Christmas, just me and Aviva, before settling down to concentrate on the looming Southern Ocean.”
Caffari has also received a Christmas message from her shore team led by her mentor, Sir Chay Blyth. Having also spent Christmas away from home during his own solo circumnavigation in 1972, Sir Chay offered Caffari some warm words of comfort: “It’s a difficult time of year for Dee to be on her own but she has done fantastically during the first part of her voyage and having allowed herself a quick celebration, I know she will concentrate on the task at hand. I wish her all the best and a very Merry Christmas in the Southern Ocean.”
Caffari’s first five weeks at sea have not been without incident – she faced a tropical storm within a week of her departure and has already been required to make an ascent up the mast in rough seas. Having survived the various ordeals, she will now brace herself for the most crucial part of her voyage as she approaches Cape Horn in the next few days. Once she has rounded the Cape, Caffari is predicted to spend close to 80 days traversing the Southern Ocean before she returns to the Atlantic and heads for home. For now, the intrepid lone yachtswoman will make the most of the distraction that Christmas will offer her, as her circumnavigation continues.