DEE CAFFARI MBE is used to making history.
Now the Titchfield trailblazer has set her sights on ‘breaking the mould’, following her latest landmark success.
The first woman to have sailed single-handedly and non-stop around the world in both directions, Caffari is now a proud part of the most successful all-female team in Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) history.
That’s after Team SCA became the first all-female team in 25 years to take line honours in the world’s toughest ocean race.
While Warsash-based Ian Walker’s Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing side powered to overall victory, Team SCA secured a famous win between Lisbon, Portugal and Lorient, France, earlier this summer in the eighth of nine legs.
In VOR history, no other all-female race team had been on such an equal footing with the male crews, with all seven teams taking to the water in exactly the same vessel – proving a female team could be competitive in a male-dominated industry.
Only the fifth all-female team to compete in the nine-month long VOR – and the first to do so in 12 years – the odds were stacked against Team SCA when they set sail in October 2014.
But subsequent success on the water has convinced Caffari she could be part of a mixed team in the future, should there be a clamour for that to return to VOR.
She said: ‘I would like to be the person who breaks the mould and is part of a mixed team.
‘I have done a lot of my sailing in a mixed environment – that’s very normal for me.
‘It almost felt contrived to be in an all-female environment but to break stereotypes and people’s perceptions we needed to have an impact. I think we have done that now.
‘I also think maybe there will be more than one female team and then in the future, I would like to see mixed teams and that be perfectly normal.
‘But if that is not to happen yet and if there is another female team then I would love to go again. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
‘There were a number of highlights – the journey that we have been on as a team has been covered so much but I think all 12 of us will have different highlights.
‘We will also still share the same – the leg-eight win was huge!
‘I don’t think it was just about what we did (on the sea).
‘That was for women’s sailing and female athletes – and inspiring to women from all walks of life as well.
‘The impact we had was something to be really proud of.’
For Caffari, the VOR proved to be both an emotional and physical journey.
She said: ‘I think you can definitely describe it as the cliched journey.
‘We came from not having any experience, so one of our aims was to develop as the race progressed.
‘We definitely delivered on that – culminating in that leg-eight win.
‘That changed history for women’s sailing and made it a lot more acceptable.
‘We had shown our performance in the in-port series but we hadn’t quite delivered off-shore.
‘It was very special to finally deliver before the end of the race and I think that basically changed the whole outlook of the race for us.’