TEAM CLEAN SEAS
Dee Caffari, the 44-year-old skipper of the Portuguese-flagged Clean
Seas/turn the Tide on Plastic, is unique among her Volvo Ocean Race peers — not just because of her gender, but also for the many ways she’s already circumnavigated the globe. She’s been around once with a team of amateurs, once alone the “wrong way,” then alone the “right way,” and finally with Team SCA, the all-female squad of professional sailors. For the upcoming Volvo, however, she’ll embark with a predominately youth team that’s 50/50 coed. It’s an experience, she says, that has so far been her most personally fulfilling yet.
After announcing her participation in June ( the team will be supported by several sustainability focused nonprofit entities), she took ownership of the VO65 and immediately set out to build a team through back-to-back offshore-training sessions. From more than 150 quick applicants and recommendations, Caffari and Team SCA teammate Liz Wardley took 50 aspiring candidates to sea to build a fledgling team of 10.
There’s no denying they’ll be short on experience, says Caffari, but they make up for it with motivation.
“They don’t know what they don’t know, so they don’t know what to ask,” says Caffari, “and its things like how you live on the boat and how you manage yourself in a team environment. The sailing is easy, that they know, but they are just learning the boat, the crew work and everything that comes along with it. It’s labor intensive for me while they learn their roles, but it will pay off in the long term when they blossom.”
While Caffari and Wardley will serve as the hands of experience (Wardley has twice done the race, with Team SCA and Amer Sports Two), Caffari had lined up fellow Brit Brian Thompson to serve as navigator, but his participation became questionable after he broke his leg before this summer’s Transpac Race. The hunt for a last-minute fill-in was proving to be a challenge, but here too, she says, she was exploring the opportunity
“These young sailors have the passion and drive to prove a point that they should be there and not the salty old guys that have been around four or five times.”
to give a younger navigator a crack at the race.
She envisions the public and race fans embracing both the youth element of her team as well as its campaign to “turn the tide” on plastic in the ocean. “It’s nice to have a message to deliver rather than a corporate brand,” she says.
Still, the burden on her shoulders to be competitive and not get left behind right out of the starting gate is heavy, and in the months before the October start in Alicante, she had much to accomplish. “I know the team will improve throughout the race, and if I can have the right personalities, I’m sure we can deliver on shore with making an impact on ocean plastic,” she says, “And I’m confident we can deliver on the water as well and have everyone take notice.
“It’s a sustainable, mixed and youth-focused program, so I do need to deliver on all of my decisions and to fulfill the race organizer’s desires. These young sailors have the passion and drive to prove a point that they should be there and not the salty old guys that have been around four or five times.”
Team SCA alumni Liz Wardley sets up a change sheet during summer crew trials on a delivery from Lisbon to Gosport, England.