x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

First woman to sail solo around world 'wrong way' skippers all-female crew

Business of sport: The British sailor Dee Caffari returns to Muscat this week to participate in the EFG Bank Sailing Arabia-The Tour, as coach and skipper to an all-women's crew.

The British sailor Dee Caffari returns to Muscat this week to participate in the EFG Bank Sailing Arabia-The Tour, as coach and skipper to an all-women's crew.

Caffari, the first woman to sail solo the "wrong way" around the world, says the biggest challenge has been preparing the four Omani nationals aged 21 to 28 in her team for the physical labour required to sustain the Arabian Gulf tour.

"It was easy to find the enthusiasm, but the physical demand associated with sailing, such as training at the gym and what they eat and being aware of their nutrition, has been a surprise to the girls," she says.

"It's not just about the skill of sailing, it's about changing their lives really."

Family consent has also been important.

"It's something we couldn't do without the full support and buy-in from the families," she says. "You have to be very culturally aware and sensitive. It is important that we take the whole family on the journey."

Oman Sail's fleet of Farr 30 racing yachts that all the teams use set off from Muscat and continue around seven Gulf marinas including Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE over a span of 15 days.

Caffari's team is sponsored by Bank Muscat.

It has been worthwhile for Caffari, a native of Hertfordshire, who changed her career only 12 years ago after she quit being a schoolteacher and has since become a world-renowned yachtswoman.

In 2006, she became the first woman to sail the globe singlehandedly and non-stop the "wrong way" - that is westwards against the prevailing currents and winds.

"For me, it was about seizing opportunities and not wanting to miss an opportunity," she says. "It's taken me on some great adventures."

She was encouraged by Chay Blyth, the renowned yachtsman of Scottish descent, who became the first man to circumnavigate the world the wrong way in 1971.

"Blyth was sure that it was only a matter of time for a woman to do it in his footsteps, and he said it could be me so I took him up on his challenge," Caffari says.

Whoever wins the Sailing Arabia - The Tour event this year, cash incentives are not the impetus to strive for the top position. There is no prize money on offer.

Caffari says the ultimate prize at the event is the glory of crossing the line first.

"It's all about self-fulfilment and the feeling of achievement.

"There is no financial reward, just the glory of holding the trophy on the podium."

halsayegh@thenational.ae