Sailing World - - The Volvo Ocean Race -

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.

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