Woman Sets out to Break Solo Sailing Record

A Canadian woman is setting off on a voyage around the world in the hopes of smashing the record for oldest solo circumnavigation.

solo sailing
The 38' sloop Nereida that Socrates will sail around the world.Jeanne Socrates

A 74-year-old woman has set out from Victoria in a bid to become the oldest person to sail alone around the world.

“It’s a personal challenge to see if I can,” said Jeanne Socrates, who has already been recognized by Guinness World Records and nautical associations as the oldest woman to sail around the world solo, non-stop and unassisted. She completed the trip in 2013, Victoria to Victoria, in 258 days. She was 70 years, 325 days old at the time she completed her trip.

Now she is trying to beat a record held by yachtsman Minoru Saito of Japan, who completed a successful sail around the globe in June 2005 at the age of 71. That would make her the oldest person of either gender.

Socrates first left Victoria on Oct. 19, but just days into her attempt, a storm system swept in when she was off the Oregon coast, and forced her to return to Victoria.

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

Storm damage to Socrates’ sailboat, Nereida, forced her to return to complete repairs 10 days into her journey. Now she’s set off to try it again.

“Fingers tightly crossed — please pray to the wind gods for us — for a good passage,” said Socrates. “It might be slow but at least it looks as though there’ll be no storms on our path.”

Socrates has “impatiently” been waiting for this window in the weather while she repaired her boat. On Sunday afternoon, her 38-foot Najad 380 was towed from Victoria’s Inner Harbour because she can’t use power in her “unassisted” sail around the world. Two coast guard boats also accompanied her out of the harbour, with several members giving her warm hugs moments before departing.

“She’s living her dream,” said Lesley Hesford of the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, who was among well-wishers who came down to the harbour to say goodbye.

Cheryl Prestie and Don Gordon were also on the dock of the Inner Harbour. They missed her when she set off in October so they made sure to see her off this time.

“We just think it’s wonderful. It’s amazing, at her age,” Prestie said.

“We just want to wish her fair winds and smooth sailing and look forward to her completing her incredible adventure,” said Gordon.