14 The Daily Telegraph Thursday 6 August 2020 *** Sport Sailing It would be some story if she can do it. Caffari is a well-known figure in professional sailing, where her experience and capabilities are highly regarded. But she will be 51 by the time the Paris Olympics roll around. Hardly the typical age of an Olympic sailor. “Ahem,” she says, laughing, when asked about her veteran status. “Thanks for bringing that up. I tell you what, even if I look back at my last Volvo Ocean Race [Caffari was skipper on Turn the Tide on Plastic in 2017-18], where 80 per cent of my crew were under 30, I kept saying I couldn’t decide whether they made me feel old, or kept me feeling young. I’m going with the ‘keeping me feeling young’.” Caffari can draw inspiration from other golden oldies who have represented Britain down the years, most notably Nick Skelton, who won showjumping gold for Britain aged 58 in Rio four years ago. More pertinently, she could look to Argentina’s Santiago Lange, who won sailing gold in the mixed Nacra class at the same Games at the age of 54. The mixed offshore Euros, which will be held in Genoa, will consist of a 45-hour offshore race in identical L30 yachts. Caffari believes she has the fitness, discipline and focus to succeed. “Sailing with [a younger sailor like] James keeps you on your toes,” she says. “It makes you want to work harder for it. But I think this discipline is interesting in the way it is not just about physical fitness. That combination of a bit of experience, resilience, tenacity … that counts for a lot. “I feel good. I’m doing a little bit more yoga these days… I used to just be in the gym lifting heavy things. Now I’m a bit more aware of my body. But ultimately it’s about being able to deliver on the water, both mentally and physically.” Caffari and Harayda have their work cut out. They met only a few weeks ago. Caffari had been thinking about an Olympic campaign ever since the changes to the Paris programme were announced (the mixed offshore class is effectively replacing the Finn). But lockdown had put all plans on hold until she received an email from Harayda out of the blue. “He was wanting help with setting up his new boat,” she says, “and I kind of said that due to lockdown my plans had all changed and I was now more available. So we went sailing together and it evolved.” Caffari denies that the 25-year age difference makes her the boss. “No, obviously I’ve got the experience and the age. But he owns the boat! So it’s kind of nice. He said: ‘This isn’t a skipper and crew, or owner and crew. This is us together sailing as fast as we can.’” The pair have already achieved some modest success. They competed in an event in France in July called the Drheam Cup, finishing second. The following day they got an email from the RYA saying they had been selected to represent Britain at the Euros. “Talk about lastminute.com,” Caffari says. “But we’re really excited. There’s an awful long way to go [to Paris] and there will be plenty of people coming into the [selection] process I’m sure. But it’s a great chance to show what we can do. It’s definitely one I’m going to grab with both hands.” Exclusive interview By Tom Cary Veteran sailor and James Harayda, 25 years her junior, unite for mixed offshore Euros that could lead to 2024 Games Caffari sets course for Paris and the fifties Olympic club D ee Caffari has conquered many of sailing’s greatest peaks. In 2006 she became the first woman to sail single-handed, non-stop around the world the wrong way – westward against prevailing winds and currents. Three years later she knocked off “sailing’s Everest”, the Vendee Globe, becoming in the process the first woman to sail solo, non-stop around the world in both directions. She remains the only woman to have sailed non-stop around the world three times. When one considers that more people have summited Everest than have sailed solo around the world, you begin to appreciate what rarefied company she keeps. In terms of ocean sailing Caffari has been there, done it, and got the T-shirt. Apart from one. It did not make headlines, but a couple of weeks ago Caffari was selected by the Royal Yachting Association to be Britain’s representative for the Eurosaf mixed offshore European Championship, which takes place in Italy next month. Caffari will sail alongside James Harayda, a 22-year-old graduate of the British Keelboat Academy. That may all sound rather dry, but it is the first step in what Caffari and Harayda hope will eventually lead to selection for the 2024 Paris Olympics, where mixed doublehanded offshore sailing is set to make its debut. Britain’s golden oldie Olympians Nick Skelton Age 58. Rio 2016. Became Britain’s oldest Olympic champion for 108 years with showjumping gold. Jerry Millner 61. London 1908. Britain’s oldest Olympic champion of all time, though he was actually Irish. Won gold for Great Britain and Ireland in the free rifle at 1,000 yards. Lorna Johnstone 70. Munich 1972. Did not win a medal but the dressage rider remains the oldest woman Olympian of all time.
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