Hometown: Auckland, New Zealand
“When she first arrived she was a bit shell shocked, I think, and almost trying too hard. But you could see that she had the potential. So we just told her to chill and do what she knows how to do. She’s really taken it on. She fits in really well and she takes on all the extra work that’s involved. She’s solid and reliable and learns fast. If she makes a mistake it only happens once. And she always does it with a smile on her face” – Dee Caffari.
Turn the tide on Plastic skipper, Dee Caffari, spoke to crew member Bianca Cook about her transition from super yachts to racing the ocean.
You come from super yachts. So you’re doing the Volvo Ocean Race having done tens of thousands of miles on super yachts. Most people would therefore think that you’re a blonde, pretty stewardess, and you’ve actively make sure that isn’t the case.
“I’ve definitely made sure that’s not the case. I’m definitely not one of those ‘below deck’ motor-yachties. I’ve kind of made a point of proving that I’m always capable of being one of the boys. I worked my way up the ranks and on my last boat I was a second officer - so I was in charge of all the safety equipment, maintenance etc. So I kind of worked my way up the ranks and have been working on only sailing boats. The last sailing boat that I worked on was a 220’ carbon fiber classic.”
So you get in the boy’s club and there was a chance for a mixed Volvo Ocean Race crew. Is this like a 65 foot dinghy to you?
“Yes like a dinghy that’s for sure!”
How are you finding it?
“It’s actually quite nice. I’ve just come from a crew of eleven, and there’s technically a crew of eleven on here as well. It’s a quarter of the size but it’s really nice. Everyone is really gelling together really well. The idea of hot-bunking at first was a bit traumatising but I’m getting used to it now. I definitely miss my mattress and my duvet and my pillow –and yeah- my air conditioning - and the toilet!”
Being a kiwi- you understand the history and the heritage of the race. Has it always been on your horizon?
“The Volvo Ocean Race –or the Whitbread as it was before- has always been a massive part of our family. Even just being a kiwi growing up you watched it. My dad was involved with Steinlager and Lion New Zealand –he’s a boat builder- so my sister and I both grew up in a boatbuilding yard and we just kind of followed the racing and it’s always been a dream of both of ours and I’m just super lucky and super excited to actually be here. It’s definitely a dream come true and I’m still trying to pinch myself and wake up.”
So let’s get down to that because I had a CV from your sister as well and you’re here and she’s not. How did that go down in the family rankings?
“To be honest, initial reaction was expected, we’re really competitive – but you know – she’s been super supportive and she’s just really excited for me and obviously she wishes she was here as well –and I wish she was here as well.”
“We grew up sailing on my dad’s classic yacht, and it was the three of us and my granddad, and that’s kind of where we started sailing. We started sailing in dinghies but we didn’t do it competitively, we moved straight to classic keelboat sailing and just kind of progressed through the yacht squadron and youth program and match racing and just went from there.”
Now you’re sat in this position and there are probably a lot of teenage kiwi girls thinking ‘how the hell do get that opportunity in the future?’ What advice would you give them?
“Get yourself out there. Try and get as many deliveries as you can. It doesn’t matter if you’re getting paid to do the deliveries or not. Just get the sea miles, get the time under your belt. Get qualifications. And just –you know- throw everything at it. You never know what opportunity might come by. Just like me. I got really lucky. I was doing courses in the UK and got a call to do a delivery and it’s just kind of progressed from there. You never know what’s going to be around the corner.”