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Jeanne Socrates forced to abandon second attempt at sailing record

Bad weather has forced Jeanne Socrates to abandon her second attempt this fall to set a record as the oldest person to sail solo around the world without touching land.
Jeanne Socrates
Jeanne Socrates prepares her boat before her departure from Victoria's Inner Harbour.

Bad weather has forced Jeanne Socrates to abandon her second attempt this fall to set a record as the oldest person to sail solo around the world without touching land.

In an entry on her online log Saturday, the 74-year-old announced “a painful but unavoidable decision.”

Rough seas and strong winds had damaged essential gear on her sailboat, and she would have to head for land for repairs, she said.

“Feeling very disheartened and sad,” she said. “So many people have been so supportive and helpful in so many ways, for which I have been deeply appreciative. Thanks to you all!”

Socrates is nearing San Diego. “I’ve had to make the painful decision to head in there for repairs needed to the boom connection and genset, among other, more minor, items.”

Winds at one point hit 40 to 45 knots, and “lasted for quite a time,” she said.

She began her second attempt from Victoria's Inner Harbour on Nov. 13.

Her first departure from Victoria was on Oct. 19; she returned a few days later after bad weather caused equipment damage.

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Earlier story: 

Sailor, 74, begins new attempt at world solo record
Nov. 13, 2016

Cindy E. Harnett
Times Colonist

Jeanne Socrates, trying to become the oldest person to sail alone around the world, set sail again Sunday afternoon under grey skies and light rain.

“It’s a personal challenge,” said the 74-year-old.

Socrates’ 38-foot Najad 380 was towed from the Inner Harbour just before 4 p.m. by a Prince of Whales boat. She was towed because she can’t use power in her “unassisted” trip. Two coast guard boats also accompanied her out of the harbour, with several members giving her warm hugs moments before departing.

Socrates had been waiting “impatiently” for a window in the rainy weather after initially leaving Victoria on Oct. 19 and being forced to return for repairs.

She is already recognized by Guinness World Records and nautical associations as the oldest woman to circumnavigate the globe. She completed the trip in 2013, departing from and returning to Victoria, in 258 days. She was 70 years, 325 days old at the time. The overall record is held by Minoru Saito of Japan, who completed a solo sail in 2005 at the age of 71. Socrates hopes to complete her voyage in seven to eight months.

In her attempt last month, Socrates had to deal with a storm system off the Oregon coast, just days into her voyage.

“There were 55-knot winds to 60 knots and really big seas … 30-foot waves,” Socrates said. “It’s pretty well the worst storm I’ve seen.”

Her storm drogue was damaged, “but it held me.”

A drogue bag is attached to the stern and used to slow down a boat. It provides resistance when dragged and keeps the vessel hull perpendicular to the waves so that it’s easier to control. Socrates said it was left tattered.

The damage to Socrates’ sailboat, Nereida, forced the return to Victoria for repairs.

Now she’s off again.

Simon Walker and Lesley Hesford of the Royal Victoria Yacht Club came down to wish Socrates well. “She's living her dream,” Hesford said.

Socrates is a grandmother and a former university mathematics professor in London, England.

She and her husband, George, bought their first sailboat in 1997 and continued sailing even after 2001, when George was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He died in 2003 at age 65.

To meet the criteria for a solo, non-stop, unassisted trip, a sailor must not use any machine-assisted power, such as an engine, or tie up to land. No other person is allowed on board.

Going through the Panama Canal would count as touching land, so Socrates must sail down the coast of the U.S. and the length of South America, going around Cape Horn. After that, she plans to sail for the southern tip of Africa. She then heads toward Tasmania, Australia, northward to New Zealand and back to Victoria.

For information, go to her website at

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