British sailor Jeanne Socrates, who will be 74 this August, is preparing to attempt another circumnavigation, starting this October 2016.

Three years ago Jeanne became the first woman to sail solo non-stop around the world from North America and the oldest woman to sail solo non-stop around the world (a record noted in the Guinness Book of Records).

The achievement in her Najad 380 yacht Nereida marked Jeanne’s third attempt to circumnavigate solo, nonstop and unassisted – eastabout via Cape Horn and the Southern Ocean.

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Jeanne Socrates. Credit: Richard.J.Williams

Jeanne’s first solo circumnavigation was cruising style’ rather than a non-stop attempt, west-about through the Tropics and Panama Canal.

She said: ‘I actually just sailed the last leg of that this year to ‘complete’ the circumnavigation in its entirety – the reason for my sailing down to Acapulco at the end of May was to sail the missing final leg to Zihuatanejo – from where I’d started in March 2007 – which I did, before continuing on north to the USA and then on to Canada.’

Her first solo-non-stop attempt, started from Lanzarote in 2009, was stopped by rigging problems in the South Atlantic. Jeanne sailed into Cape Town to deal with the problems and discovered she had a major engine issue which she had been unaware of as she had sailed all the way from the Canaries.

During Jeanne’s second non-stop attempt, her yacht was knocked down off Cape Horn and Jeanne was forced to put into port for extensive repairs. Though she completed the circumnavigation, the non-stop challenge eluded her until 8 July 2013 when she arrived back at Victoria, B.C., Canada after 258 days 14 hours 16 minutes and 36 seconds at sea.

Another successful circumnavigation would see Jeanne break the record of becoming the oldest person to have sailed around the world non-stop, solo, and unassisted.

The record is currently held by a Minoru Saito from Japan, when he was 71.

New challenge

Jeanne Socrates

Jeanne Socrates sailing Nereida

The forthcoming voyage in the 38ft yacht Nereida is expected to take Jeanne seven to eight months, and will involve sailing around the Five Great Capes of the Southern Ocean and back to her starting point without any outside help and without using her motor (which will be sealed).

Jeanne is now based in British Columbia, Canada, preparing for the round the world trip, having sailed up from Acapulco, Mexico in June and July.

She told PBO: ‘I’m busy here – so much to do! I just spent the last two days cleaning the bilge food storage area of diesel, resulting from a major spillage I discovered just before leaving Mexico – an unbelievable 30 gallons in all. Thank God I found it before I left.

‘”Always check the bilge regularly and especially before sailing away offshore…” should be written and hung up clear to see in all boats!’

During the round-the-world trip, Jeanne will post daily blogs to her website and will be talking each day to people on land around the world using her HF radio, which she uses for emails as well.

She said: ‘If any problems arise (and they usually do!), I’ll have to deal with them using tools & spares I’ll carry onboard … and all food for my time at sea will need to be with me from the start of my journey – fresh eggs turned daily should last several months, onions and potatoes most of the way, and I’ll also have canned and dried foods.

‘Drinking water will come from a water-maker (desalinator) working off my batteries and I’ll have long-life milk and fruit juices as ballast! My batteries will be mainly powered by the sun and the wind, with a small backup generator to help on windless, overcast days.

‘I’ll do my own weather routing using my radio to get the information – ‘grib’ weather files will come as email attachments and weather faxes will come direct from onshore transmitters located beside whichever sea area I happen to be in.

‘It’s useful to know when a storm is expected – they’re very frequent over a good part of my route – and in planning my route I’ll try to stay out of both calms and storms and in favourable wind as far as possible.

‘I’m hoping to use my sextant to practise navigation skills made rusty from frequent use of GPS. The Southern Ocean is often overcast so taking regular sights won’t always be possible – but when well offshore, in the middle of an ocean, that’s not a problem!

‘This will be my fourth solo circumnavigation and, I hope, my second successful nonstop one – your support will mean a lot to me and help me to succeed. When I finish, I’ll become the oldest person to have sailed around nonstop, solo, unassisted.’

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Jeanne Socrates’ first step onto shore after landfall 8 July 2013 – Jeanne says “I’d had to wait overnight for customs clearance around 8am before I was allowed to do that.” Credit: Richard J. Williams

Jeanne learned to sail when she was in her late 40s. In 1997 she and her husband commissioned the first Nereida and sailed from the UK across the Atlantic.

After her husband’s death from cancer, Jeanne began a steep learning curve that resulted in her deciding to carry on sailing single-handed.

Jeanne’s latest challenge is raising funds for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).

Jeanne added: ‘The RNLI is independent of government funding and the crews of the RNLI lifeboats are all volunteers. They need our support to keep them well-trained and their equipment up to date if they’re to be able to launch safely and succeed in their lifesaving efforts night and day.

‘Please donate what you can to show your support for my efforts to complete a circuit around the globe single-handed, via Cape Horn, under sail alone and without setting foot on land until I finish.’