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Thursday, May 18, 2006
Caffari sails solo around world in 179 days

Associated Press

OSLO, Norway -- Dee Caffari became the first woman to sail alone and nonstop the "wrong way" around the world Thursday after an often harrowing 179 days at sea.

Dee Caffari
It only took Dee Caffari 179 days to sail around the world against prevailing winds and currents.

The 33-year-old British former school teacher crossed the finish line in the English Channel, claiming the record as the first woman to make the solo trip against prevailing winds and currents.

The record must be ratified by the World Speed Sailing Records Council before it becomes official.

Caffari set off from the English Channel on Nov. 22 aboard her 72-foot yacht Aviva on a 28,000-mile voyage around the world from east to west.

Sailors call it "beating against the wind," because the yachts are subjected to near-constant lashing from wind and waves.

"The most difficult thought I have to get my head around is the fact that tomorrow Aviva and I will sail into the history books alongside others that I have read books about and admired from afar," Caffari wrote by e-mail Wednesday.

She claimed the record on the same day that a 32-year-old Dutch sailor, Hans Horrevoets, died after being swept from the deck of the yacht ABN AMRO TWO during the Volvo Ocean Race, another around-the-world competition.

In a statement, Caffari's team expressed sympathy and said "all those involved in the Volvo Ocean Race will be in all our thoughts."

Caffari's voyage took her through some of the world's harshest waters, including 77 days in the treacherous Southern Ocean of Antarctica. That region is notorious for its icebergs, storms and waves of up to 60 feet.

During that part of the trip, her team said she sailed in storms, with winds up to 63 miles per hour for more than seven days, and endured gales for 34 days.

"To be honest I am not really enjoying it anymore," she wrote on Jan. 31, after seven days of gales. "I have been in worse; it is just the relentless pounding that is winning in the battle to wear me down."

On her way, she sailed down the Atlantic, and along the coast of Latin America, rounding the waters of Cape Horn after 44 days.

From there, Caffari crossed the Southern Ocean, where, just after the halfway mark of her voyage, her mast was struck by lightning and damaged crucial wind instruments Feb. 17.

When she finally had calm enough weather to climb the 95-foot mast to make repairs, a squall hit the boat, trapping her aloft for an hour.

She wrote that she spent that hour "taking a beating and being thrown around the rig" before she managed to get down.

In early April, Caffari passed southern Africa's Cape of Good Hope, turning north toward home. She spent about a week trapped in the heat in the doldrums near the equator.

"This morning I had got to the point where I just wanted to sit on deck and cry, in frustration, in tiredness and just because I was still out here trying to get home," she wrote on her Internet log of April 30. "The last two days had felt more difficult than the entire journey so far."

Two days later, she finally caught the winds that would take her back to the English Channel.

Caffari started sailing with her father as a child, and, after a short stint as a physical education teacher, pursued professional sailing.