Exclusive: Dee Caffari MBE on the Volvo Ocean Race 2017
The Offshore Rolex Fastnet Race
1. How many times have you done the Rolex Fastnet Race and why do you think it is so popular?
So for me, the Rolex Fastnet Race is one of those classic races. It’s a 600 miler that is right here in our back yard, in the south coast of the United Kingdom. The race is very technical, navigationally challenging, and with the Fastnet disaster that we all remember from 1979, it really has a place in history and in everybody’s minds.
2. What was your favourite memory of competing in the Rolex Fastnet Race?
Having done the Rolex Fastnet Race so many times, I am fortunate to have done it on several types of different boat. The memory that sticks in my mind the most was actually when I jumped on a MOD70. I left Sunday morning with the rest of the fleet at lunchtime and headed out onto the Solent. I was back home, here in Hampshire, in my bed on Monday night. It was on a MOD70 trimaran and we did it in 33 hours. That was definitely a highlight of mine!
The Volvo Ocean Race 2017
3. How does it feel to be back on board at the start line of the Volvo Ocean Race?
So how am I feeling? I am going to be lining up on the start line in Alicante on October 22nd for the Volvo Ocean Race. I have mixed emotions: I’m super excited, obviously it’s a massive honour to be stepping up to skipper Turn the Tide on Plastic. I am also a little bit apprehensive as it’s a massive year ahead of us, but the excitement far outweighs the nerves!
4. You have a limited time to get the team to gel. How do you make the team work together effectively quickly?
One of my toughest issues that I am addressing now as the skipper of Turn the Tide On Plastic is that we’ve arrived very late into the program. And my focus has been on a youth team, with 60% of my team being under 30, with a mixed crew. I’ve got five guys and five girls - I’m trying to recruit these sailors as fast as possible so I can start working with the team I am going to sail around the world with. I’ve chosen wisely, with my number 2 Liz Wardley jumping on as the boat captain. She’s been with these boats and knows them very well. So I am relying heavily on her to coach and train these sailors up so we get a well-gelled team. It’s about their sailing skills and their secondary skills that they can bring to the team and their personalities. It’s a very intense year that we are going to spend with each other, so it’s about getting the right personalities together. It is important how enjoyable a year it’s going to be.
5. As a passionate campaigner for a healthier marine environment, it must be exciting to promote this message on a global scale. How do you plan to increase awareness and encourage people to proactively change their habits?
I am very passionate about the marine environment and consider the world’s oceans to be our playground – so their health is very important. It’s nice to be in a position to carry a message, so that I can personally promote the message from the boat. Through branding on the boat and publicity around the team, we want to make people change their behaviour and think about their conduct regarding single-use plastics and their everyday impact, help them change their behaviour and understand the impact every single individual makes no matter where they are.
6. If there was one change you would like everyone to make, what would it be?
It’s really hard to highlight one change. If I had to pick, it would be to have a water bottle you can refill. Let’s not buy bottled water: we don’t need to. Most of the world has very good drinking water and we need to be responsible.
7. What are the three attributes you need to become a successful ocean racer and why?
In my opinion, these are:
- Having a love of the ocean - you actually have to enjoy being out there!
- Tenacity - you’ve got to get through the bad bits to experience the good bits. It’s not always champagne sailing.
- Determination – whether you are sailing part of a team or as an individual. You need to have that drive to continue pushing at 100% the whole time. So if you are part of a team you need everyone to buy into that philosophy. If you’re sailing solo, it’s critical to manage this mind state
The Volvo Ocean Race Team Kit
8. Why did you choose Musto as your clothing supplier for the Volvo Ocean Race?
I am delighted to have chosen Musto as the team’s clothing supplier for the Volvo Ocean Race. I am fortunate to have completed several around-the-world yacht races wearing Musto. I have confidence in its kit and its experience. The quality and durability of the clothing I am wearing lets me know they can perform in some of the harshest environments possible. And knowing it can get me around the world happy, dry, and comfortable and still pushing at 100% will help ensure we are successful.
9. There will be ten people on-board Turn the Tide On Plastic. How do you differentiate your kit and others when they are all the same colour?
It’s often a really funny moment when you have ten sailors all wearing the same kit - as you can imagine there are some mix-ups. There is a very structured environment on a boat and a lot of people living in a very small space. You have to be very organised with your kit: everything is numbered. Each crew member is allocated a number and a hook and it’s up to each member to ensure that their kit is hung on the correct hook. Any stray items of kit go into the bag of shame that the person will then have to bargain to get back. The bag is a very valued tool on this boat!
Some people aren’t aware they’ve even lost it until we get to the stopover. If you do lose an item to the bag of shame and are desperate to get it back, then chocolate is the most valuable bargaining tool you can have at your disposal!
10. What is your favourite piece of Musto kit and why?
My favourite piece of Musto kit out of all the items we wear whilst sailing around the world is the duck hat (Fleece Lined Waterproof Cap). Now I know it’s not the most attractive look, but when you are offshore, warmth and waterproof is very important. So the duck hat is the winner for me. The HPX GORE-TEX® Pro Series Dry Smock is also an essential, being completely waterproof, durable and breathable, which is so important when you’re trying to offshore sail. It’s the ultimate piece of kit.