Caffari: I’d love to return for Phuket Raceweek
PHUKET: When The Phuket News meets Dee Caffari for the first time in the lounge area at the Evason Six Senses Resort and Spa, it’d very quickly apparent how easy it is to forget how much this remarkable woman has achieved in her life.
Friday 29 July 2011, 03:23AM
She’s so normal, down to earth, polite, happy to chat and almost permanently boasting a beaming smile.
She has none of the ego that is evident in many who have achieved less in the world of professional sport – several English footballers spring to mind – nor has she the mindboggling physique of, say, Sir Chris Hoy, the multiple Olympic gold-medal winning cyclist whose thighs make him look like he has swallowed a rhinoceros.
Just normal person who has achieved incredible things.
In her illustrious career, Caffari has singlehandedly sailed non-stop around the world three times, in the process becoming the first woman to circumnavigate the globe both with and against the wind.
Throw in the fact that she also holds the female-crewed monohull Round Britain and Ireland speed record and has competed in several other global events, it’s amazing to think that, outside of the sailing world, she’s barely given the recognition she deserves, with the exception of an MBE from Queen Elizabeth II.
Ellen MacArthur was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for similar feats and while similar recognition might be forthcoming in the future, it’s easy to believe Caffari when she says that she doesn’t do what she does in order to gain recognition nor is she concerned about the accolades doled out to others.
“It’s not something I do to be famous,” she says. “I do my sport because I’m passionate about it.
“It just happens that some people pick up on it so you get invitations like this [to Six Senses Phuket Raceweek].
“It’s nice to be considered an inspirational figure for schoolchildren or women. People have picked up on it and say, ‘Wow! That’s an amazing story,’ which makes me feel very proud. But I continue to do what I do because I love it.”
Caffari is famous in sailing circles and that is the reason she was invited by Six Senses to be the “Ambassador” for the eighth edition of Phuket Raceweek – voted Best Asian Regatta of the Year in the 2011 Asia Boating Awards – and it was clear that the experience was a positive one.
“It’s been lovely. I was so lucky to be asked to be the ambassador for Six Senses.
“I was invited to be the ambassador to help raise the profile of the regatta that they sponsor; last year they invited an Olympic medallist [British double gold-medallist Shirley Robertson] in the same capacity but this year my calendar was free so I jumped at the chance.
“To combine having a bit of luxury, seeing a bit of Thailand and doing some sailing has been the perfect package. I’m smiling genuinely as we speak and it means I fit perfectly in the Land of Smiles.”
It’s hard not to be content when you’re presented with the opportunity to do something you love in a place as beautiful as Phuket, but Caffari has also been impressed with the whole Raceweek setup.
“This is my first experience of Asian sailing and the Asian yachting circuit is really growing. I was really impressed by the setup and the organisation. It’s really efficient and you can see why people go from one regatta to another [within the region].
“It’s one of the more relaxed, more friendly regattas and the atmosphere is great on the water and off it too.”
During the four days of competition, those out on the water were faced with a range of different weather conditions including squalls, light wind, storms, blazing sunshine and more but the key, Caffari says, is to go with the flow.
“I think you have to have a very relaxed attitude which fits in with the temperature, the climate and the surroundings. Even though there was no real wind and hot temperatures at times, it meant I could go for a swim.
“You need to be relaxed but a good thing is that the rain is warm!”
After being part of the crew that finished fourth onboard Six Senses Niña, skippered by Phuket resident Grenville Fordham – whose company, Image Asia, runs the regatta – the opportunity to experience one or two of Phuket’s tourist hot spots and enjoy some pampering proved irresistible.
“We [Caffari and partner Harry Spedding] have ticked off a couple of tourist things. We’ve been through Patong and we went to FantaSea which was quite cool with the elephants and tigers.
“We’ve also had a bit of a session in the Six Senses Spa which has made me feel like I’m truly on holiday.”
Having enjoyed the best that the island has to offer both on land and at sea, chances are Phuket will see the return of Caffari in the not-too-distant future.
“I’d love to [return to Phuket to sail]; if it comes with an invitation, even better.
“I’d love to come back to do Six Senses Raceweek but if there was an opportunity to do one of the other Asian regattas that would be fantastic.
“The King’s Cup has the biggest profile; it’s the most well known. When I was back in England and I told people I was coming to Phuket to sail they all said ‘Oh, the King’s Cup?’ but I’m not fussy; I’m happy to sail for anyone.”
After seeing the smile on her face as she says this, The Phuket News is left in no mind that she means it. – Dan Ogunshakin