Spectating, speaking and sunshine

This month I transitioned from sailor to spectator and a picked a great month to make the swap as there was so much action to follow on the water. The Transat Jacques Vabre was full of drama, starting with the storms that battered the English Channel and delayed most of the fleet. Apart from the five Ultime trimarans, who had the speed to avoid the worst of the weather, the remaining competitors had to take pit stops to wait for safer conditions. The Ocean fifty fleet and the Class 40 fleet waited in Lorient for a couple of weeks before they could set off again. The IMOCA fleet were holed up in Le Havre before embarking on a shortened course to Martinique in a close fought battle that had us all on the edge of our seats. A split in the fleet to the north and south made it impossible to predict how it would play out until the final few miles. In the end it was Thomas Ruyant and Morgan Lagraviere on ‘For the People’ who were triumphant for the second edition in a row. British performances were super strong, with Sam Goodchild, Sam Davies and Alan Roberts finishing in the top ten of the IMOCA fleet and Brian Thompson and Alister Richardson finishing fifth in the Class 40 fleet. Now I am fully hooked on the solo return race for the IMOCA fleet, Retour a la Base, with Sam Goodchild leading the charge as I write this.

Closing out the month was the second preliminary regatta for the 37th America’s Cup taking place in Jeddah. It was a great advert for excellent conditions and some very close racing with Emirates Team New Zealand taking the top spot after a final match race with Luna Rosa Prada Pirelli, who had new young drivers showing impressive form. The AC40 one design boats will now be used for both the Youth and Women’s regattas next year.

When I am not on the water sailing myself or following the action elsewhere, it seems that I am talking about sailing. I hosted the second round table discussion on ‘Changing Tack,’ as we looked at the welfare of those working within the industry. Since our first round table discussion earlier in the year, Nautilus and ISWAN had carried out powerful research that we were able to analyse and discuss. Our two break-out sessions focussed on mental health and leadership and what can be done to positively influence the industry in these areas. There is progress in industry around this emotive topic and a great deal of work being carried out by working groups to keep the momentum already gained. I remain positive and encouraged by the effort put in by all of us to help make the sport a better place for future generations.

It is also the time of year when World Sailing, the International Federation for our sport, holds its global annual conference. We celebrated exceptional achievements with Rolex World Sailor of the Year being won by Kirsten Neuschafer from South Africa and Australian Tom Slingsby. I was there to represent their official charity, the World Sailing Trust. The charity has the joint focus of People and Planet, helping promote and enhance sailing in all its forms and protect the waters our sport depends on. I also sit on the Oceanic and Offshore Committee who look at safety and progress within the largest sector of participation and how we can continue to grow.

I was invited to speak at a conference in Barcelona with a bit of a difference. VMWare hosted a conference around the topic of Explore and I joined Sarah Cruddas, astrophysicist and space journalist, and Al Humphreys, an adventurer famous for his micro adventures. The three of us took the audience from space to land then out to sea. It was great fun to be part of the event and inspirational to listen to my fellow speakers.

At Poole Yacht Club with Sunsail, I had the opportunity to join the next generation of sailors coming up through the ranks for a day. We were creating a film to celebrate Sunsail turning fifty and asked young sailors what the future might look like over the next fifty years. I look forward to sharing their thoughts with you when it is released. I then joined Travelopia, owners of Sunsail and The Moorings, at their conference to inspire employees as they head into a busy celebratory year. 

With the temperature having most definitely dropped, I am pleased to be setting off on a short but sunny excursion before we get to the real crux of the festive period. I will tell you all about it later this month but for now, enjoy the build up to Christmas!

Dee Caffari

British yachtswoman Dee Caffari is the first woman to have sailed single-handed and non-stop around the world in both directions and the only woman to have sailed non-stop around the world three times. In 2006 Dee became the first woman to sail solo, non-stop, around the world against the prevailing winds and currents and was awarded an MBE in recognition of her achievement.

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