January 30, 2024
‘I forgot who I am’ – Skipper Mélodie Schaffer
By David Pendered
Oct. 22 – The only female skipper racing the Globe40 said farewell to family, career and life on land three years ago and returned to her first love – sailing.
Mélodie Schaffer broke the news to her family after competing about three years ago in the Caribbean 600, a race around 11 islands that’s on the bucket list many blue water sailors.
“Literally, I came home and I told my family. I said, ‘Listen, I forgot who I am. I forgot how much I love sailing and this is such a new challenge and I have to do more of it,’” Schaffer is quoted in her skipper’s bio posted by Globe40.
And with that, in 2021 Schaffer bought a Class40 monohull racing sloop and set about racing. She picked a proven vessel that had competed in two Atlantic Cup regattas, the three-leg offshore/inshore race from Charleston to New England, according to a report on the Class40 site.
“I have picked it up since then in the last three years,” Schaffer continued in her bio post. “I have just ramped right up with getting as much in as I can, working around my family. I have three kids at home. They’re all just graduating. So now I get to go and have these experiences I want to have and I get to push myself and challenge myself.”
Schaffer, 54, a trained biomedical engineer, now identifies as a sailing photographer who posts on her Instagram account, threeoceansventures. This is Schaffer’s second offshore race in the boat formerly known as StormTech, now renamed Whiskey Jack.
The first campaign was the young but famed the two-handed Transat Jacque Vabre. The boat finished in 28 days after covering about 8,500 nautical miles from Le Havre, France to Martinique, according to a report in SailinginCanada.com. The racecourse covers an historic coffee route between France and the Caribbean Sea.
Schaffer’s second venture is in a regatta that’s making history.
The Globe40 is the first offshore race to start on African soil, according to a description of the race. The fleet left from Tangier, the port in Morocco that overlooks the Strait of Gibraltar. Over an expected nine-month race, the east-bound route tracks south of the Cape of Good Hope, to Auckland, to Tahiti, around Cape Horn, north to Grenada and then to the finish in Lorient, on the coast of Brittany, France.
Schaffer and her one-man crew are resting in Auckland, New Zealand. The trip from Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean, was both long and brutal. Schaffer and crew were at sea 37 days, 13 hours, 12 minutes and 7 seconds. The Whiskey Jack finished last out of the five boats still in the race. Two vessels have abandoned.
In the Globe40’s just-completed third leg, the Whiskey Jack covered 7,060.8 nautical miles over ground at an average speed of 7.8 knots. Schaffer was able to sail a tight course and covered just 19.9 nautical miles more miles than the No. 1 finisher. But the top finisher averaged 8.5 knots, which brought them into Auckland three days before Schaffer – 34 days, 8 hours, 18 minutes and 22 seconds. Schaffer’s boat trailed the fourth-place finisher by 3 hours and 6 seconds.
The leg was unexpectedly difficult. Unusual weather conditions included flat calms and gales, according to the report of race posted by Globe40. The crew of the Japanese entry now in third place overall, Milai around the World, skippered by Masa Suzuki, issued this statement:
- “We really liked the diversity of conditions in the Indian Ocean. We learned a lot of new things about the boat and the ways of sailing, it was not easy. We are tired but happy with our performance.”
Schaffer and her crew, Jeronimo Santos Gonzalez, are now ranked fourth overall out of the five boats remaining in the race. Two vessels have dropped out. Schaffer’s boat, Whiskey Jack, has finished 6th, 3rd and 5th in the three legs completed so far.
This is Schaffer’s concluding comment in the skipper’s bio:
- “It’s going to be an amazing experience. So, I bought this boat last summer and so I’m new to the [fleet], then lots of racing and to race against sailors like this, I think, will be extraordinary and then to go around the world…. I mean, it’s definitely a bucket list item for an offshore sailor to have a race around the world.”