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21 October 2005, 10:03 am
SEARLE Lines Up Westabout Round The World Attempt
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WSSRC Record Attempt

Debra SEARLE (GBR) is looking to take on the biggest challenge of her career as she lines up an attempt on the westabout single-handed round the world record. SEARLE hit the headlines in January 2002 when she finished a two-handed Atlantic rowing challenge on her own, after her then husband was rescued. Now she is forsaking rowing to race a 60 foot 'Formula 1' boat, solo around the world, the wrong way over the winter of 2006/2007.
It will be one of the toughest battles she has faced and, if successful SEARLE (formerly Debra VEAL) could go down in history as the first and fastest female to circumnavigate the globe sailing east to west via the three great capes of Cape Horn, Cape Leeuwin and Cape of Good Hope against the world's prevailing winds and tides. However with Dee CAFFARI (GBR) also announcing an attempt on the same record, to leave this year, SEARLE could well have to forgo the honour of being the inaugural women's record holder.

The route is considered the 'wrong way', the right way being eastabout passing Cape of Good Hope first then Leeuwin and Cape Horn. The easterly route is the fast and furious one, the westerly the slow and very uncomfortable one, as the part of the course around Antartica then is predominantly upwind.

No female has managed to finish this challenge before and only four male skippers have successfully completed the task starting with Sir Chay BLYTH in 1971 who became the first sailor to complete a solo, non-stop westabout circumnavigation in 292 days. Then 20 years on, Britain's Mike GOLDING succeeded in doing the same taking a huge chunk out of BLYTH's time in 1993-1994 to set a new time of 161 days. French skipper, Philippe MONNET reduced that record to 151 days and then his compatriot, Jean Luc VAN DEN HEEDE, set a new westabout time of 122 days, 14 hours, 3 minutes and 49 seconds last winter. SEARLE could be racing for well over 150 days in a refitted VOR60 boat that competed in the 2001/2002 Volvo Ocean Race as NewsCorp.

SEARLE has joined forces with Pindar, the international print and electronic media company, who have a long standing history in supporting female ocean adventurers. The British based company has sponsored sailor Emma RICHARDS for over five years, who in 2003 became the youngest person and first British woman to complete the solo 'Around Alone' race. Last month Pindar providing funding and support to quadriplegic sailor Hilary LISTER who sailed solo across the English Channel using a unique technique of inhaling and exhaling to control the sails. Pindar will part sponsor SEARLE's venture and are actively looking for co-sponsors to support this record attempt that will offer sponsors high media return.

For the expertise needed to get SEARLE's 60-foot boat to the start line and, hopefully, all the way around the globe, SEARLE will be supported in her record attempt by the Offshore Challenges Adventure Team and OC Technology. Part of the OC Group, the company behind Ellen MACARTHUR's (GBR) Offshore Challenges Sailing Team, the technical team will provide race management skills and utilize their experience of managing offshore racing campaigns in the past as they oversee the refit of the V60 boat. OC Technology will provide a state-of-the-art media and communications system onboard and tracking and safety services. SEARLE's record attempt will sit under the Offshore Challenges Adventure Team and not the professional sailing team.

SEARLE has had relatively little offshore ocean racing experience and has been training with the UKSA (United Kingdom Sailing Academy) who have been providing an intense training programme which includes seamanship skills, navigation, boat maintenance, safety and long distance sailing, as well as taking every opportunity to compete in other offshore races. The next twelve months will be busy ones!

SEARLE commented, 'This is the last world-first still standing in the sailing world and will be my toughest challenge yet. It is an adventure that I have dreamt about doing for years despite never having sailed before but then I'd never rowed before I rowed across the Atlantic! My training and preparation is now underway and we are working hard to secure additional sponsors and partners to add their support to this project. Last winter I sailed the Southern Ocean as a crew member with Team Pindar during the Global Challenge and absolutely loved it - the rougher the better! It made me even more determined to take on a solo circumnavigation. The fact that no woman has ever achieved this record before should maybe set the alarm bells ringing in my head, but I'm choosing to focus on the success of my attempt rather than those who have failed in the past.'

Offshore Challenges (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Debra SEARLE during the Global Challenge:© Challenges Business
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