Victoria’s Jeanne Socrates in homestretch as she sails into the history books

Around-the-world sailor Jeanne Socrates achieved a major milestone last week, crossing the equator as she continued her quest to reach Victoria.

Socrates, who is likely to be celebrating her 77th birthday on Aug. 17 at sea, left Victoria Oct. 3, 2018, with a goal of becoming the oldest person to ever sail around the globe non-stop and unassisted.

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The current record holder is a Japanese man, Minoru Saito, who completed the task in 2005 at the age of 71. Socrates is the oldest woman to have done it, making the arduous trip at 70.

She is hoping to be back in Victoria, where she has a lot of friends and supporters, before September. She had initially hoped to arrive in May.

After running into some issues — including a “knockdown” in which her boat went far enough over for the sail to hit the water — Socrates, reached via satellite phone, said she is back on track.

Still, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing in recent weeks, with repairs to the mainsail among the never-ending tasks facing the solo sailor.

There was also a pair of cyclones — dubbed Eric and Flossie — to be wary of. She had a similar problem south of the Indian Ocean in the spring when the threat of a cyclone delayed her for a week, and she said she had hoped she might have seen the last of that sort of thing. “When the two cyclones were threatening me, I had no choice but to stop the boat and just drift around. I was just drifting around for quite a few days so it was just really, really frustrating.”

Now it’s onward to Hawaii, where she plans to sail close to the Big Island before hitting the home stretch for Victoria.

Looking ahead, she said the north Pacific Ocean might pose a challenge, with high-pressure systems putting headwinds in her way.

“Luckily I’m not going to run out of food because that could have been a big worry,” Socrates said. She has plenty of canned fish, and one of her favourite recent meals was a mixture of chickpeas, tomato and ham.

“That was actually pretty tasty.”

All told, Socrates has completed 31Ú2 solo circumnavigations in her trusty boat Nereida, named for the mythical nereids, handmaidens of Poseidon.

A retired mathematics professor who started sailing at 48, Socrates was looking to make a similar sail in 2016, but was twice curtailed by weather. She then had a bad fall from a ladder on her boat in 2017, suffering a broken neck, nine broken ribs and a concussion.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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