Armed forces set for Dee day

Conditions proved tough around The Needles in the 2008 Round The Island Race   Picture: Patrick Eden
Conditions proved tough around The Needles in the 2008 Round The Island Race Picture: Patrick Eden
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teacher - Mathematics teacher, Margaret Bruce, ditches life at school to sail with the men on aboard the Noryema in the Admiral's Cup race series

THIS WEEK IN 1975: Mathematics teacher the only British female in a man’s world

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If it’s your first time on a racing yacht, then taking part in the JP Morgan Asset Management Round The Island Race with Dee Caffari at the helm isn’t a bad place to start.

So it will be tomorrow for some of those aboard Toe In The Water, the Farr 52 which will be crewed by armed services personnel, several of whom are still in rehabilitation after suffering injuries while on active service.

And Titchfield’s Caffari – who is an honorary commander in the Royal Navy – says it’s particularly appropriate as the annual round the Isle of Wight race falls on a special day.

‘Because it’s Armed Forces Day, the race is quite a big deal for the Toe In The Water charity,’ she said. ‘I’m one of their ambassadors, anyway, and the fact that I now hold a military title made it easier for them to have an all-military boat and promote it on Armed Forces Day.’

The record-breaking yachtswoman knows several of the volunteer crew she will be sailing alongside tomorrow, but the injured crew were due to arrive at the yacht’s Gosport base only last night before a day of training today.

‘It’s nice to have some new guys, albeit through horrible circumstances that they are in rehabilitation at Headley Court, and some of them may never even have been on a boat before, so it really is going to take their breath away to be involved in an event as big as this,’ said Caffari.

Despite her numerous exploits, including three circumnavigations – two single-handed – Caffari says the Round The Island Race is still remarkable.

‘It’s definitely special, without a doubt. There isn’t another event that has that many people on the water all with the same passion for the sport.

‘Everyone does exactly the same course – it’s not as if there’s a different course out there for those who are more experienced.

‘It’s great for everyone to do. I love it, it’s got a real buzz about it.’

In the first start of the day at 7am, with some 1,600 yachts soon to be hard on her heels, Caffari knows there will be some tough competition out on the water.

‘We should definitely be among the first few boats to finish,’ she says.

‘This year’s line-up is a bit different to last time – Leopard’s out there and they hold the record, so they’ll be looking to be faster than everybody.

‘But we’ll be towards the front and there’s a fair few boats to actually race against, so it should be quite exciting.

‘It’s also nice to do the race and then allow the boys to relax and see the other boats racing, doing what they’ve just done. They are so often heads-down doing what they are doing that they miss the fact that there are 1,600 other boats doing the same thing.

‘If you have a traditional wind direction they you get an array of spinnakers down the south of the island and it’s quite a sight.’