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27 December 2005, 12:00 am
Aviva Passes The 6000 Mile Mark And Leaves The Coast Of Uruguay Behind
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Aviva Challenge

Christmas Day was always going to be difficult for the solo skipper, but waking up to find yet another technical problem, combined with exhaustion made it even harder than she had anticipated.

"The [auto-pilot] pump we thought we had fixed had emptied hydraulic fluid everywhere," said Dee. "Clearly not fixed, I cleaned it up and changed onto the other set, which sounded an alarm at least every hour saying there was a fault. Each time I cleared it and it worked again."

A busy couple of days in the run up to a special occasion that for most is characterised by the company of friends and family, combined with tiredness and the discovery of another unanticipated technical problem, resulted in Dee spending much of the day in tears.

On Thursday last week Aviva hit the 6000 mile mark and donning her jacket for the first time reminded her of the falling temperatures. She has left the coast of Uruguay behind, passed Buenos Aires and begun her journey down the coast of Argentina. Some "much needed words of encouragement from Sir Chay Blyth," lifted her spirits, Dee saying that it meant a great deal to speak to her mentor, and inspiration behind the Aviva Challenge.

On Friday she decided to change her largest headsail, a No. 1 Yankee, down to a smaller sail, the No. 2 Yankee, in anticipation of the conditions she will face further south. Ideally she would leave it as late as possible, but the large sails are difficult to deal with single-handed, so she took the opportunity to tackle the job in calm conditions.

"It took me 2 hours 45 minutes from deciding to do it to lying half dead on the deck having achieved it and tidied up," said Dee.

"It had been an epic and I was so glad that I chose those conditions to do it in. Any breeze would have made it close on impossible. Memo to self, when changing headsails back again to the big one, wait for a no wind day!"

On Christmas Eve Dee wrote: "Having learnt that the No. 1 Yankee weighs 90Kg and the No. 2 Yankee weighs 65 Kg it is pretty understandable why my forearms were aching on Friday night, especially when we ended with three reefs in the mainsail as well."

The wind had also been keeping Dee busy, changing speed and direction and demanding regular adjustment to the sails. "Christmas morning arrived after a night of winds varying between 8 knots and 40 knots and true to form changing direction nearly as much.

"In between alarms sounding, tears and trimming, I opened my presents. At least they brought a smile to my face."

Dee also made time for her Christmas dinner of roast chicken in gravy, carrots, peas and creamed potatoes, followed by Christmas pudding and custard. The highlights of the day were overshadowed by the emotional challenge, but thankfully the conditions were kind.

"As the high pressure system moves across us to the North, we were in shifting breeze and it was hard to decide if east of south was better than north of west! We compromised and did a little of each … the wind reduced and the sail change work was done before my deflation. So apart from keeping Aviva moving, I concentrated on a little R&R for me."

"Tomorrow is another day."

The current Round the World, non stop, westabout, single-handed record stands at 122 days, 14 hours, 3 minutes and 49 seconds at an average speed of 7.43 knots set by Jean Luc VAN DEN HEEDE (FRA) on Adrien from November 2003-March 2004.

Aviva (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Dee CAFFARI:© Challenge Business
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