Davies to lead all-female crew on voyage into the unknown

Sam Davies. Picture: Lloyd Images
Sam Davies. Picture: Lloyd Images
Alex Alley, from Gosport.

Picture: Sarah Standing (151832-9304) PPP-151030-175051001

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Sam Davies is making final plans for the round-the-world sailing war that is the Volvo Ocean Race, with the opening battle set for this Saturday off Alicante, Spain.

Portsmouth-born Davies is the skipper of the all-female Team SCA crew.

She knows she will face fierce competition from the other six Volvo 65s in the first skirmish of the in-port race, then a far sterner test on the opening leg to Cape Town, which starts a week later on October 11.

Despite being the first team to declare for this edition of the Volvo Race, and with extensive on-water training, Davies knows her crew – the first all-woman entry since the 2001-02 race – have much less round-the-world racing experience to draw on compared to their male counterparts.

So while she, Titchfield’s Dee Caffari and a few others among the crew have thousands and thousands of offshore miles to draw on, Davies is not making any predictions about SCA’s prospects.

‘It is really hard to tell because none of us have done it before and we are coming from a lower level than the others, despite the fact we have had a year of sailing,’ said Davies.

‘We have got so much to catch up on, just everything from how you sail the boat and how you trim it and how you keep doing that for weeks on end.

‘When they joined us, some of the girls had only done one or two nights at sea, so we are playing a big catch-up game.

‘I don’t think we really know how we are going to do.’

The only concession to gender realities is that SCA has 11 crew compared to the eight-strong crews on the male-only yachts.

It also includes Hamble navigator Libby Greenhalgh, 2001 race veteran Liz Wardley, experienced bowgirl Sophie Ciszek and leading Swiss Mini sailor Justine Mettraux and her sister Elodie – the two inevitably dubbed ‘Swissters’.

Davies, 40, admits that after her years of single-handed sailing, getting used to sailing with a crew proved as much as a challenge as being skipper.

‘I had to get used to talking to people on the boat again – it is still a bit of a shock, because I guess that is the hard bit, not doing it all yourself,’ she said.

‘The hard thing about being skipper is that it is a different challenge for me, because you have to manage the people and be in charge and I am only really fully realising that now.

‘People are looking for signs and noises and the whole communication thing is really important.

‘And you have to tell people when they are being out of line.

‘Then again, with the girls we have it’s not too hard a job.’

Warsash racer Ian Walker’s Abu Dhabi, Team Brunel and the recently announced Mapfre-sponsored Spanish entry start as favourites.

SCA will be among the dark horses with Dongfeng, Alvimedica and Vestas Wind.