HAMPSHIRE sailor Dee Caffari today started the 2013 EFG Bank Sailing Arabia event in Bahrain.

The 39-year-old is skippering the only all-female entry in the race onboard Al Thuraya Bank Muscat.

Setting off from Manama in Bahrain today, the fleet will negotiate the Arabian Peninsula stopping at Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah and three stops in Oman.

Over the seven legs, the sailors will not only have to race offshore overnight but also compete in short, fast races close to shore at the stopover venues which will enable the public to get up close and watch the action.

Ahead of the start, Caffari said: “I am delighted to be back with the Oman Sail Women’s Programme and very much looking forward to competing with the girls again. “We have been training hard over the last few months and I have seen the Omani girls flourish since I first met them all back in 2011. “These young women are a real inspiration to others in the region and to women across the globe. In the near future all- female crews from the Middle East competing in these events will be commonplace and there is no reason why these girls shouldn’t go on to compete in races around the world.”

For Caffari, who lives in Gosport, this is a continuation of her involvement in a unique initiative that is breaking down barriers and encouraging women to take part in sailing. Caffari and a core team of elite international women sailors began coaching novice young Omani women to compete in Sail Arabia The Tour 2012. These young Omani women, who had never seen themselves as athletes or leaders, have been given credible role models in Caffari and their elite athlete peers. From never having been in a gym or experienced a competitive environment, to racing in an intense 1200 mile offshore race against men, these young women became leaders, role models and are today empowering thousands of other young women in Oman and across the globe.

In 2006 Caffari became the first woman to sail solo non stop around the world against the prevailing winds and currents. Three years later, he sixth place finish in the notorious Vendée Globe race secured her a double world record as she became the first woman to sail solo non-stop around the globe in both directions. Finishing the Barcelona World Race in April 2011 thrust her into the record books for a third time as the woman that has sailed non-stop around the planet more times than any other in history.