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The Volvo Ocean Race: From the Southern Ocean to South Wales

British sailing legend and RNLI ambassador Dee Caffari is leading a young and promising team in the ultimate round-the-world competition. And, for the first time in a decade, you can see the action for yourself.

The Volvo Ocean Race: From the Southern Ocean to South Wales

Photo: Sam Greenfield/Volvo Ocean Race

One is not like the other

For over 40 years, the Volvo Ocean Race has enticed competing sailors from all over the world to take on the most exhilarating ocean marathon, navigating 45,000 nautical miles of wild, open seas.

Every edition of the Volvo Ocean Race is different – and the race has grown tremendously since the first competition started (and finished) in Portsmouth in 1973.

October 2017 marked the event’s 13th edition, where seven competing teams set sail from the port of Alicante, Spain, and embarked on the 11-leg race. When they cross the finish line next month in The Hague, Netherlands, the sailors will have crossed 4 oceans, travelled through 6 continents and voyaged past 12 cities.

But there’s another significant milestone in this year’s Volvo Ocean Race. Later this month, the competitors will be en route to Cardiff, Wales – making this the first time the competition has visited the UK in over 10 years.

‘We want to push the boundaries all the time’

As of May 2018, the teams are competing in leg 9 of 11. Among them is Turn the Tide on Plastic, led by British sailing legend and RNLI ambassador Dee Caffari.

‘Unless you have these pinnacle events, you don’t get any development or innovation in the sport,’ she explains. ‘We’re sailors who want to test and push the boundaries all the time.’

With a multitude of sea and weather conditions, the Volvo Ocean Race certainly hasn’t disappointed this year – and for Dee, this edition is particularly special.

Showing what they're made of

Some new rules were introduced to the competition for 2017/18 – including permission to bring up to three extra crew members per team if it will result in a balanced mix of male and female sailors.

Dee’s gender-diverse crew are mostly under 30 and come from Europe, Australia and even New Zealand. She’s incredibly passionate about them – especially as, unlike other teams, many of them have never been around the world before.

‘My biggest high has been seeing this crew develop before me, at every leg,’ says Dee. ‘They come from very skilled backgrounds – they just didn’t have Volvo Ocean Race experience. But they’ve shown what they’re made of.’

‘Auckland to Itajaí (Brazil) was considered the toughest leg of the race, and we finished in fourth place,’ she adds, proudly.

‘The Southern Ocean delivered everything I promised my guys. We had starry nights and clear skies, but also a lot of wet, cold and snowy conditions. My crew would agree that it’s probably the most exhilarating sailing they’ve done.'

Love and loss

Exhilaration can also come with danger – demonstrated all too clearly in this year’s race by the loss of Southampton sailor John Fisher from team Sun Hung Kai’s Scallywag on 26 March.

‘It affected the whole fleet,’ Dee remembers. ‘He was a big supporter of what I’m trying to do with my young crew. We all lost miles in the next 24 hours, taking a time out to reflect and be a bit more cautious.

‘Now, it’s about remembering that John was doing what he loved and that we need to go out and make him proud.’

The (coming) home stretch

The ninth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race began on 20 May 2018, and the teams must make the transatlantic crossing from Newport, Rhode Island to Cardiff, Wales – a 3,300-nautical-mile journey.

This year, Wales is celebrating the Year of the Sea – which is why the RNLI were selected as host city community partners for the Cardiff stopover. We’ll be one of the many proud families to welcome Dee and her crew home.

‘To come into home waters as a British skipper is massive. We’ve got a lot of Brits onboard and even a home-grown Welshman! It’s going to be a proud moment,’ Dee smiles.

‘The RNLI is a very close-knit community, where they rely on each other and trust each other – it’s the epitome of good teamwork and that’s what I’m trying to amplify on our boat.’

Visit us at the official race village

The official race village will open on 27 May 2018 at the Cardiff Bay Barrage, ready to welcome the Volvo Ocean Race competitors to the UK.

During the 2-week stopover in Cardiff, you can find the RNLI in the race village. We'll even have a B class and a Severn class lifeboat on display.

So whether you’re a keen sailor yourself or simply enjoy being by the water, come and see us. We’ll help make sure you and your loved ones know how to stay safe and make the most of your favourite coastal activities this summer.

Sailing safely

When it comes to looking after yourself – and your own special crew – on the water, Dee shares three top tips from her experience of sailing around the world:

  1. Respect Mother Nature – otherwise she will definitely let you know who's boss!
  2. Rely on your crew and trust each other. The people next to you will have your back, no matter what. 
  3. Remember, as a team player, do the best you can in the job you do. Those around you will do the same and you’ll all come together to perform. 

Getting ready for your next adventure? Read our safety advice to make your next sailing or motorboating trip an unforgettable one.