Today is the 100th anniversary of the International Women’s Day. Seems sad that in this day and age we still need a day to celebrate the accomplishments of women. In my mind women outstrip men in just about every walk of life; and they are a lot better looking to boot.
Two women are currently racing double-handed around the world in the Barcelona World Race. They are approaching Cape Horn at the tip of South America, one of the fiercest and most notorious landfalls on the planet. For Dee Caffari this is her fourth time around that great cape. What an amazing accomplishment for a person who just 10 short years ago had barely been offshore on a sailboat.
I first met Dee in 2004. I was writing a book for one of the boats competing in the Global Challenge, the race that went the “wrong” way around the world. Ie: upwind. Dee was the skipper of a rival boat. There was nothing unique about her. In fact had you not known that she was a professional sailor you might have thought that she was a school teacher – which in fact she was until she took up sailing and found out that she could make a living out of it.
Dee finished a respectable 10th in the Global Challenge that year and then took on an even greater challenge. She took the same boat that she had sailed around the world with crew; and sailed it alone, upwind, without stopping. It was an amazing accomplishment and in some ways sounded the death knell for the Global Challenge. The event was billed as the “toughest race of them all.” How tough could it be if a young, pretty girl could sail one of those boats completely alone without stopping? Well let me be the one to tell you. Both what Dee accomplished and the Global Challenge itself are truly huge accomplishments and very, very tough events.
It took Dee six months to get around the world and she finished on a rainy day in southern England. Barely anyone showed up because of the “inclement” weather!! It seems to me that the spirit of adventure that used to capture a nation is lacking these days. The less than massive reception did not discourage Dee or her sponsor Aviva, who agreed to fund the build of a brand new Open 60 for the Vendée Globe, a solo, nonstop race around the world. This time her circumnavigations was with the prevailing winds but on board a boat that is almost unimaginable to sail on a calm day, and suicide to sail when the wind is howling. Oh, and part of her training to keep her hand in – Dee ran the London Marathon.
I was there when the Vendée Globe started. Thirty boats set off from France into the teeth of a gale that decimated seven boats within the first 24 hours of the race. Dee and Aviva were second across the start line and I remember seeing the boat as a tiny speck as she sailed over the horizon. By sheer determination and skill she out-sailed and outsmarted some of the very best sailors in the world to finish 6th. Yet another amazing accomplishment.
Well, you would think that she had done enough, but no. Late last year Dee teamed up with Anna Corbella to race the Barcelona World Race, another non-stop lap of the planet. Is there anything that this girl won’t attempt? Think about this. It’s hard enough sailing across the bay on an Open 60. She makes it look like a piece of cake as she circumnavigates the world not once, not twice, not even three times. But now a fourth time. Amazing. So do we really need an International Women’s Day? I guess so if only to remind us of the incredible accomplishments of women both in sailing and in life.
In a short, modest statement from on board this morning Dee had the following to say: “Hopefully Anna and I are a shining example and an inspiration to women on this 100th anniversary of the International Women’s Day. It is nice to be down here as a female team, to be part of it all and doing a good job, and showing that girls can go and do the same thing.” How understated. You go girl and keep on keeping on. You are an inspiration to us all.