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Dee finds going tough in Transat

12th December 2007

British yachtswoman Dee Caffari is finding the experience of sailing an Open 60 solo a tough learning curve as she takes part in the Transat EcoverB2B race.

Caffari returned in triumph after becoming the first woman to sail around the world against the prevailing tide.

"I thought I had experienced a fair amount of life on board an Open 60. I was in for a shock. During the Transat Jacques Vabre, we tacked only twice, and then to clear a landmass we were too close to. At one point the spinnaker had been set for six days and I even complained the sailing wasn't exciting enough. I hold my head in my hands now and take it all back. Since leaving Brazil on the Transat Ecover B2B Race I have had a baptism of fire. I got to the point of asking myself what on earth I was doing here with some of the best sailors in the world. I felt as if I didn't have a clue. Let me try and explain life on board an Open 60. These extremely strong but also extremely fragile carbon shells are crashing into the incoming waves when you are sailing upwind, as we now are. Shaped with flat bottoms to enhance their downwind surfing prowess, they slam and everything judders above deck. The loads on the sheets make disturbing cracking sounds like gunfire and the mast swings forward violently when the momentum is stopped by a wave - so much so that the runners load and reload with a slam. There is no moon out now and the clouds are covering the sky so there is not even a hint of a star to be seen. I crash onwards into the blackness trying to see through the torrents of water flooding the deck. Occasionally they wash me back into a recess of the cockpit. The boatspeed reads 13 knots. I check my sail chart to check if I am on the numbers. After all, I am racing. After 24 hours, the slamming motion has left me a nervous wreck. Even if the boat can take it, I do not think that I can. My focus changes. I haven't slept. I am still adjusting to the noises. I haven't eaten because I haven't been inclined to wait for a kettle to boil. I am poised in the cuddy in my foulies ready for the slightest hint of a problem. Without fixing my mainsail I am no longer racing, but according to the sail chart I am in the right set up for the wind speed. I have to think of the bigger picture. To qualify for the Vendee Globe I have to cross the finish line of this race."

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