Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson Complete Transat Jacques Vabre


Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson Complete Transat (Photo by Marcel Mochet)

Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson Complete Transat (Photo by Marcel Mochet)

Dee and Brian completed the two-handed Transat Jacques Vabre race from Le Havre, France to Costa Rica onboard Aviva. The first week of the race saw the fleet battle through some extreme weather conditions and subsequent damage to boats forced four Open 60’s, including fellow British sailor Alex Thomson, to retire from racing.

Dee and Brian had their fair share of problems but were able to replace a lost wind instrument in a becalmed period. Generator issues meant that both sailors had to hand steer for the majority of the time as they were without the pilot, however, a speedy pit stop in St Lucia for a generator part enabled them to get powered back up and stay in the race. Towards the final stages, the duo raced hard to finish in 8th position from an original fleet of fourteen IMOCA Open 60 yachts that started the transatlantic race 19 days ago. In the last few hours of the race Aviva experienced very light winds making for a frustrating and protracted finish into the port of Limon.

The Transat Jacques Vabre was the last of the races validated by IMOCA in the two year Open 60 season and Aviva’s result earned additional points for both Dee and Brian. Out of 33 skippers, Caffari was ranked 6th, in her first full IMOCA season, and Thompson 8th. The World Championship title was won by Marc Guillemot, skipper of Safran.

Dee commented:
“To have finished 6th in the IMOCA rankings, alongside noted sailors like Michel Desjoyeaux and Marc Guillemot is an added bonus and makes me very proud of how much Aviva and I have achieved in the past two years.”
On arriving at the dock in Port Limon, Dee said:
“ The race was long and it was hard, in three different parts, the beginning and the stormy stuff, getting sorted out and then the finale in the Caribbean Sea. So it was very eventful, highs and lows. We have things to deal with and obviously a frustrating finish, but to be this close at the end of a race has been cool.
This is in a different league to my last Transat Jacques Vabre. Sailing with Brian has been great. He is cool and calm and you think: ‘ok this is fine and you get on with it.' So the intensity I have dealt with is much greater than I am used to. It was a much more enjoyable race than the Vendée Globe, and it was nice to be in among the people who were leading. The company I am keeping now is something I never even dreamed of. Now I want to carry on. I need to find the backing but I feel like I am growing at such a speed. This was a great race to do, you learn so much with the right person on board.”

Having now had chance to enjoy the creature comforts of dry land, like a shower, fresh food, a long sleep in a real bed and interaction with lots of people all at once, I have had chance to reflect on the race.

Having worked so hard and held such good positions during the race eighth place was disappointing at the time. The reality is that any of the four boats finishing with us could have finished in fifth and any order could have followed. We were in squall territory and it was a certain amount of luck for the final few miles. Even the conversations ashore with the other skippers and people involved in the race have all been talking about our huge gains at the end and also how fast we were at the start and during the big storm we all faced during the first week. This has off course made me feel better and I cannot deny I loved sailing Aviva again in a big race and it was great sailing with Brian. We had some problems to face and we did it all in a positive manner and had huge fun as well as the hard sailing together.

Now we are preparing the boat for the delivery home. Hannah Jenner and Katy Miller are busy helping with jobs on the boat to learn their way around as they will be joining James and Harry for the trip home. Let’s hope they will be home for Christmas. I know Aviva will look after them and I am confident that they will look after her well for me.

On arriving at the dock in Port Limon, Brian Thompson said:
“It was an interesting place to have the stealth play. There were light winds to the south on the more direct course, so people were deciding how far north to go, and we went a fairly direct course. It turned out there was a front which came through from Panama which gained us, we got through it early in the day and had clear skies for the rest of the day. Then we had nice sailing for the afternoon, maybe a little slower but we sailed less miles. But then we were next to W-Hotels and we thought it was Akena, but it was W-Hotels who had been 100 miles ahead. Then we were in constant squalls one after the other and were never becalmed until right near the end. They must have had the one squall which drove them all the way in.

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