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Victoria greets oldest woman to sail the globe non-stop

Jeanne Socrates told reporters on Monday that she’s ‘happy to be called crazy; the crazy lady with the sails.’

CHAD HIPOLITO/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

It was around Christmas that Jeanne Socrates started to worry about her latest attempt to become the oldest woman in history to make a solo non-stop trip around the world in a sailboat.

Two months after the 70-year-old had departed Victoria, she was rounding Cape Horn, the southern tip of South America. It was in this spot that her previous attempt, in 2011, had ended when her boat was knocked over in high winds and she was forced to dock for repairs.

"I was coming around Cape Horn on the identical day, almost the same spot as my knockdown. You can imagine my feelings. I'm getting a bit worried, this is too much to be a coincidence," she said. "I thought: I'm crazy. What am I doing? It's so uncomfortable, I'm damp, I'm cold, I'm getting thrown around."

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But she persevered, and despite two broken computers and a failed attempt to repair a wind-measuring instrument at the top of her cruiser's 16-metre mast, Ms. Socrates entered Victoria's harbour just before 3 a.m. on Monday morning.

Speaking with a throng of reporters and fans on the docks in central Victoria, Ms. Socrates said she doesn't worry about her state of mind any more.

"I'm happy to be called crazy; the crazy lady with the sails," she said.

Ms. Socrates is from London, England, but said she chose Victoria as her starting place because she considers British Columbia "a second home." This was her third try at a solo circumnavigation of the globe. Along with the ill-fated 2011 attempt, a 2009 venture ended in South Africa due to repairs that couldn't be put off.

This time, her successful trip took 81/2 in her 11-metre cruiser, Nereida. She slept in shifts of two or three hours at a time, cooked meals on a butane-fuelled stove, and kept a near-daily blog. She answered hundreds of e-mails from friends, family and sailing enthusiasts, even dictating her messages by radio after both her laptops stopped working in May.

Ms. Socrates spoke about the pioneering female sailors who served as her inspiration, particularly Ellen MacArthur, an Englishwoman who set a world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation in 2005. "I couldn't believe what she was going through," Ms. Socrates said. "The sleep deprivation … my god, it was amazing."

Having achieved what she thinks of as "the Mount Everest of sailing," Ms. Socrates said she now plans to take some time off. She's hoping to spend the winter in Mexico, and then perhaps make a more leisurely sailing trip to some of the places she passed by in the past eight months. "Hopefully with some friends on board this time," she said with a laugh. "I'd like some company."

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