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May 16, 2006 10:15 by AVIVA CHALLENGE | 0 comments



Solo yachtswoman Dee Caffari is battling for every mile towards the finish line after another serious autopilot failure

After 175 days of sailing non-stop round the world against the prevailing winds and currents, solo yachtswoman Dee Caffari, 33, is now approximately 72 hours from realising her dream of becoming the first woman ever to successfully complete what was once called “the impossible voyage”.

Dee Caffari onboard Aviva is expected to cross the official finish line* on 18 May 2006.
Caffari has sailed 28,560 miles and aims to complete the circumnavigation by crossing the finish line south of The Lizard, UK. She must cross within sight of the World Sailing Speed Record Council (WSSRC) observer**, so the circumnavigation and new world record can be officially ratified. Then she will make her way to Southampton, UK to celebrate her triumphant homecoming with family, friends and supporters in Ocean Village.

However, another serious autopilot failure on Saturday ensured it will be a fight to the very end. The fault occurred in rough conditions making a repair attempt impossible, so Caffari was forced to steer manually through the night. Far from reflecting on the voyage in the closing stages, the solo sailor now faces sleep deprivation and exhaustion as frequent alarms force her to steer the yacht herself. Caffari, who set out on 20 November 2005, commented:

“I didn’t flap at all even with Aviva turning circles in 30 knots of wind last night and being buffeted by wind, waves and rain all night long, I held it together. Instead I sat on deck considering the last few days and how they might be endured. I have thought about these final miles many times over the last six months and none of my thoughts considered being stuck at the helm, unable to do much else.”

Discussing the fast-approaching climax of her marathon voyage, Caffari continued:
“When I was sailing against the winds deep in the Southern Ocean and the horrific conditions forced me into survival mode, I often visualised the finish line to keep going when the storms seemed endless. But I couldn’t possibly have imagined the cocktail of emotions I am experiencing now that I am so close. Life at sea has become the norm for me so I will miss having the ocean to myself but at the same time I feel overwhelmed with excitement about the prospect of achieving the circumnavigation.”

Dee’s personal coach Harry Spedding, who has closely monitored Dee’s psychological condition and analysed her performance throughout the voyage, commented:

“This is a strange time for Dee; she is desperate to see her family and friends after a period of such extreme isolation and is gradually coming to terms with the magnitude of what she has achieved. But she has also adapted to a solitary life aboard Aviva and the prospect of returning to the hustle and bustle of urban life is in some ways frightening. Just as she prepared herself for the isolation before departure, she is now preparing for the culture shock of living in close proximity to other people again.”

In an interview for an Aviva Challenge podcast, David Hempleman-Adams, one of Britain’s foremost adventurers with a host of world-firsts and solo expeditions to his credit, said that returning to your previous life can be a daunting transition:

“Psychologically it might be easier these days than it was, say 20 or 40 years ago because you can get on the satellite phone or send emails but adjusting when you get back can be difficult initially. Using the satellite phone or emails is completely different from a one-to-one relationship, so it can be extremely hard. Not the first few days because the euphoria is there, but after the first week it starts to get difficult and it can take three or four months to get back to normal life.”

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