x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Caffari eyes her next port of call

This week the 35-year-old Briton became the first woman to sail around the world in both directions when she finished sixth in the Vendee Globe.

This week the 35-year-old Briton became the first woman to sail around the world in both directions when she finished sixth in the Vendee Globe. Having travelled 27,000 miles over the course of 99 days with just 20-minute bursts of sleep at a time, the former teacher is understandably finding it tough to adjust to her new routine.

"It sounds odd but alarms are one of the hardest things to get used to," she said. "The Vendee Globe was all about alarms - telling you there's something wrong or that you have to do something else. "When the alarm goes off at home now, I'm like 'what's going on, what's wrong?' I basically leap into action ready to tackle anything before realising where I am." Caffari has been making the most of the creature comforts on land. Within hours of landing, she was rewarded with a Diet Coke and pizza, her two weaknesses.

"I've been dreaming about them for as long as I can remember and they tasted great," she said, "certainly better than freeze-dried food, which I really don't miss in the slightest. "Since arriving back, it's all been about eating and sleeping although the sleeping is odd. I sleep huddled up not moving in a foetal position - that's how I slept on the boat - but it's never for long. "I'm just so used to sleeping in small snatches day and night so it's taking some getting used to."

Three years ago, Caffari sailed around the world into the prevailing winds, taking nearly double the time - 178 days. But she admits the Vendee Globe was 10-times tougher because of the size of the boat and the much higher pace that she and the rest of the field were travelling at. "Also, this time I was taking part in the hardest and most competitive race in the world," she said. "It was really mental. There were some amazing highs and amazing lows.

"I loved the racing and the fact that I was only really a few miles from finishing in third place. And then there's all the usual highs of being accompanied by whales, of seeing great sunsets." But amid the highs, there were plenty of lows, with Caffari revealing all in her online daily diary, a process she says helped to keep her sane. "I think I'm a really honest person so I just told it as it was if things were going really badly and some days it went really badly," she said.

"The time when Yann Elies broke his leg or when Jean Le Cam capsized and was left upturned in his hull just waiting to be rescued. "Those days make you fear for your life and think you can never do it. And then there were days where you feel alone but the lows were always outweighed by the highs." However, the ultimate high was undeniably finishing in Les Sable d'Olonne in France, where Caffari set off from at the start of November.

"It was incredible," she said. "One minute I was in the middle of the ocean all by myself and the next there were thousands of people cheering me on. It was an absolutely phenomenal welcome." Caffari is already plotting her next voyage - another record attempt, navigating the British Isles in June - plus her next Vendee Globe in four years time. mmajendie@thenational.ae