With four circumnavigations behind her – two of them single-handed – there’s not much Dee Caffari doesn’t know about sailing.
But she admits she felt like the new girl at school when first stepping aboard an ultra-fast MOD 70, one of which she will be crewing in the Rolex Fastnet Race which starts from The Solent tomorrow.
‘When I first got on one two years ago I wasn’t even sure what the boys were saying, and I know my way around a boat,’ the Titchfield yachtswoman confessed in Cowes this week.
The 70-foot-long Multi One Design trimarans are capable of 45-knots, regularly sailing with two hulls out of the water and sometimes fully out of the water supported on a single-curved aircraft wing-like dagger board.
It’s a long way from the powerful but comparatively sedate Open 60s Dee is more used to.
On the Fastnet she will be aboard Oman Air-Musandan.
‘It’s amazing how quickly you pick it up, though – it’s just knowing where the exits are,’ Caffari joked.
‘Now I’m not just filling in but am part of the crew – not so much rabbit in the headlights, but can help out and anticipate more.’
Aside from her own sea miles, Caffari knows she is part of a vastly-experienced crew which includes skipper French multihull ace Sidney Gavignet, former Hamble resident and Volvo veteran Neal McDonald and Irish sailing legend Damian Foxall, who used to windsurf off Eastney while working as a builder in Portsmouth.
Between them they count 23 round-the-world races – ‘So if we can’t get to the Fastnet Rock and back there is something seriously wrong,’ said Caffari.
‘These boats and multihulls generally are a pretty hot topic and quite controversial with a lot of people, so it has been questioned.
Caffari said: ‘We all know that anything can happen on any boat in any weather at any time, especially on a race like the Fastnet.
‘But you can get run over by a bus if you cross the road too often.’
The 600-mile Fastnet Race remains a huge draw, according to Caffari.
‘It’s awesome. I love it and I love the fact that no matter what other races are going on, the Fastnet is still the pinnacle of offshore racing that everyone wants to do,’ she said.
‘It’s on people’s bucket list, it’s “I’ve just started sailing and it’s what I want to aim for”.
‘And it’s achievable – with an entry list of world-class sailors all the way down to a family doing it together.
‘There is every range of sailor doing the Fastnet Race. I think it’s fantastic. And it’s simple – to the Rock and back.’
Among this year’s record-breaking 351 entries is Caffari’s friend and Vendee Globe competitor Sam Davies.
The Portsmouth-born sailor is racing with the all-female crew aboard the Volvo 70 SCA as part of the build-up to next year’s Volvo Ocean Race.
Elsewhere most attention will focus on the large monohulls vying for line honours with the 100-foot maxis ICAP Leopard and Esmit Europa 2 to the fore.
Although, the Hamble-based 72-footer Ran 2 is favourite for her third consecutive corrected time win despite facing stiff competition this time around.