While CAFFARI's achievement of 2005 was impressive, finishing sixth in this epic Vendee Globe race on Monday, crossing the finish line at 13:12:57 UTC is an equally impressive feat, considering her first solo race in an Open 60 was only in November 2007.
Just three years ago, CAFFARI sailed around the world against the prevailing winds and currents taking 178 days, 3 hours and 5 minutes and now the British sailor has done it again, but this time from west to east in a race… A remarkable performance as only 15 solo sailors have accomplished this feat in less than 100 days aboard a monohull.
On finishing sixth of the 30 starters, CAFFARI said she had surprised even herself: "If you'd said that in the beginning, I'd have laughed in your face. I had an awesome start, then I made a few mistakes tactically in the Atlantic and the intensity of the race in the South Atlantic was just phenomenal. I sort of said, I'm not sure if I can do this. I was OK in the south, then I lost a bit of confidence in my first storm. Everybody was having lots of problems and that was when all the damage was happening and there was Yann's injury and I lost all my confidence then.
"Cape Horn was interesting. It was quite nice to hang out and know that the other two were with me. And I had an awesome Atlantic - I suddenly turned the corner and I'd grown into my boat. I did the repair on the main to keep it going a little bit longer. We just decided as a team to go for it and if it fell apart we'd deal with that later. I was really pleased to close the gap and then the Doldrums were a nightmare. A horrible two days, the worst two days of the race. I lost 300 miles to Brian in two days. Then I spent the North Atlantic closing the gap, but I just ran out of runway today. So I didn't quite get him, but I'm happy to have pushed him all the way to the line."
It is a fairytale finish for CAFFARI, considering that at the start on 9 November, she did nothing to hide her lack of racing experience. In two years of preparation with one aboard her new monohull, she clearly made a lot of progress. Her Owen Clarke designed boat, the sistership to Mike GOLDING's (GBR), from the same mould and learning from some of the problems GOLDING had, proved to be very powerful, but CAFFARI managed to adapt and stay with the 12 frontrunners until the Canaries.
A slight tactical mistake, the same as Marc GUILLEMOT (FRA) made, stopped her in her tracks in the lee of the islands, but the solo sailor was not going to give up: 16th at the Equator, she kept up the pace all the way down the Atlantic and she was in the same place at the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope. With boats retiring in the Kerguelens, CAFFARI chose a cautious approach and sailed north of the islands along with Brian THOMPSON (GBR). Eleventh at Cape Leeuwin, the two Brits would stay on the same route almost up to the New Zealand gate, where she discovered that her mainsail was disintegrating… BOISSIÈRES was close by, but THOMPSON made his getaway.
It was at the rounding of the Horn that the three got together, as a very short, but violent storm hit Tierra del Fuego, forcing the three solo sailors to shelter or run free. CAFFARI was in seventh place, when she passed the les Estados island. There were 7,000 miles to cover and the condition of her mainsail continued to decline… The Horn Trio continued up the coast of Brazil, but separated when BOISSIÈRES got left behind at the latitude of Uruguay, while THOMPSON made the most of the power of his machine. However, CAFFARI made it back to within 200 miles of GUILLEMOT when he crossed the Equator. The Doldrums were very difficult for CAFFARI and cost her dearly: she lost more than 200 miles in a few hours.
Nothing could affect the determination of the British sailor and the climb back up the North Atlantic was to offer her the opportunity to make an impressive recovery: she clawed back mile after mile and was just sixty miles behind Brian as they entered the Bay of Biscay. CAFFARI completed the race sailing 27,907 miles on the water at an average speed of 11.74 knots.
Akenas Verandas Next
BOISSIÈRES has been struggling with light winds and the complex weather patterns and it is not going to get any easier for him over his final miles to the finish. It will be tough to know that four boats finished between Saturday and Monday - the equivalent to a photo finish compared to waiting for the first three boats - and there are now more boats finished than remain on the course now, but BOISSIÈRES will be buoyed this morning seeing that he has less than 1000 miles of his Vendée Globe to complete. He has light winds still and is making 7.6 knots this morning, 286 miles NE of the Azores.
He was less than 600 miles behind Akena Vérandas but now Steve WHITE (GBR) has lost to 704 miles behind. SW of the Azores still, he is quicker than BOISSIÈRES, making 10 knots. WHITE is just focusing on getting finished now, but will be frustrated by an easterly detour which he took due to a road block of light winds ahead of him. He has light 10-12 knots SW'ly winds pushing Toe in the Water along.
Rich WILSON (USA) is back in the north, crossing the Equator at 00:10 UTC yesterday morning and has not seem slowed for the Doldrums very much, even if he was complaining of his weather lot yesterday, and he has been making a steady 7-9 knots in the light NE'ly trades so far. The Great American III should have less than 3000 miles to the finish later today.
Norbert SEDLACEK (AUT) is due east of Rio this morning, in E'ly trades and still pacing Raphael DINELLI (FRA) despite his damaged mast track. DINELLI is 480 miles ahead and both skippers will be enjoying the trades after suffering some brutal conditions early last week.
Vendee Globe Leaderboard - 15:00 UTC 17 February 2009
1. Michel DESJOYEAUX (FRA), Foncia, finished after 84 days 3 hours, 9 minutes
2. Armel LE CLÉAC'H (FRA), Brit Air, finished after 89 days 9 hours 39 minutes
3. Marc GUILLEMOT (FRA), Safran, at 95 days 3 hours 19 minutes
3. RDG. Vincent RIOU (FRA), PRB,.
4. Sam DAVIES (GBR), Roxy, finished after 95 days 4 hours 39 minutes
5. Brian THOMPSON (GBR), Bahrain Team Pindar, 98 days 20 hours 29 minutes
6. Dee CAFFARI (GBR), Aviva, at 99 days 1 hour 11 minutes
7. Arnaud BOISSIÈRES (FRA), Akena Vérandas, at 975 miles to finish
8. Steve WHITE (GBR), Toe in the Water, 1679 miles to finish
9. Rich WILSON (USA), Great American III, at 3082 miles to finish
10. Raphaël DINELLI (FRA), Fondation Océan Vital, at 4211 miles to finish
11. Norbert SEDLACEK (AUT), Nauticsport - Kapsch, at 4685 miles to finish
30 boats started