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April 17, 2011

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Sailing solo round the globe

Following British sea queens Tracy Edwards and Ellen MacArthur, Samantha Davies has become one of Britain's best-known and loved yachtswomen. She shot to fame after competitions that included the ultimate solo, nonstop circumnavigation in the Vendee Globe race 2008-09 - she achieved a remarkable fourth place.

Davies, alone on her 33-foot Roxy for 95 days, covered 30,000 miles and battled some of the roughest seas on the planet. She was one of the two women out of 30 participants and said she love it.

She lives in Brittany, France, with her boyfriend.

Davies, 37, now an icon of sports and adventure, is an ambassador for ocean protection and was recently in Beijing for a La Mer event to celebrate World Oceans Day.

Q: How did you become a sailor and turn pro in a male-dominated sport?

A: I have the sea in my genes and blood. One grandfather was submarine commander and the other grandfather is a boat builder. My parents always had boats and the sea is always part of my life, it's not a competition but a pleasure journey and a holiday. When I was younger, a British woman Tracy Edwards who led an all female crew to sail around the world. She inspired me and she is my hero. One reason I did an engineering degree was so that I could work in yacht design and make a career on the boat. I thought that would be the only way I could be involved in racing and I didn't think about being a pro sailor. Then Tracy created a new project to head an all-female crew to break the nonstop round-the-world sailing record. I joined the crew and missed my graduation because I was in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. That was in 1997.

Q: Weren't you frightened of vicious storms, killer whales and icebergs?

A: I feel so natural and at ease on a boat and the sea. At some points I would be afraid, but I'm not afraid to be afraid because I have such a good team working with me. When I'm sailing alone, I know what to do and I have confidence. Sailing around the world, the only time I was afraid was (when I saw) injured competitors ... reminding us things might happen and sometimes they are beyond your control. But I did good mental preparation before the race and always kept a positive attitude. The only moment I cry is actually at the end of a race because I am sad it is over.

Q: What was the most challenging moment?

A: For us sailors, Cape Horn in the South America where all the oceans meet is a mythical place in history since so many ships are lost and many sailors lost their lives there. It's the hardest section of the race, one of the greatest sailing adventures and challenges. It was an amazing feeling to see the land you've never seen before and imagine all the other sailors who saw the same thing and experienced the same challenge.

Q: What are the advantages of a female sailor?

A: Female sailors have strong mental strength and endurance. The longer the race is, the more advantages we have. Women generally tend to be stabilized and conserve their energy to the last minute of the race. In the last Vendee Globe, only two of the 30 competitors were women. Only 11 people finished the race, including both women did.

Q: Is there one title that stands out?

A: The Vendee Globe. It's every four years and it's my dream to go on the next one. I'm trying to find a sponsor now.

Q: How do you take care of your complexion at sea?

A: You have to be so careful. I realized very early that I had to protect my skin with tons of creams, wear sunglasses, drink a lot of water and balance the nutrition.


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