British Columbia

'Just hanging on': 76-year-old sailor hits milestone in race for round-the-world record

Jeanne Socrates, who left Victoria in October, has put one of the most difficult parts of her journey behind her as she tries to set a record as the oldest person to sail around the world non-stop, alone and unassisted.

Jean Socrates hopes to be the oldest person to sail around the world alone, non-stop and unassisted

At 76 years old, Jeanne Socrates hopes to become the oldest person to sail non-stop around the world. (Michael Mcarthur/CBC)

It has been a solitary holiday season for a woman who is trying to become the oldest person to sail around the world alone, non-stop and unassisted.

But Jeanne Socrates, a 76-year-old British grandmother, has reason to celebrate.

Aboard the 38-foot long S/V Nereida, Socrates has successfully navigated around Cape Horn.

The treacherous waters off the tip of South America are considered some of the most difficult on her route to circumnavigate the world.

A glimpse inside the S/V Nereida. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

"The weather there down in the Southern Ocean, that far down, you are not far from Antarctica of course, is just so strong and so very quick to change," she said by satellite phone.

"Gusts up to 40 knots in big seas and just hanging on in there and thinking 'I've got to do this,' got to get around."

Socrates has used the satellite phone to stay in touch with family over the holidays. But the boat's radio has been her main companion during her months at sea.

She has only been able to see land for a few days during her journey.

Jeanne Socrates waves goodbye as she departs from Victoria. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

Socrates left Victoria in October and hopes to make it back to the B.C. capital by early summer.

Despite the success of navigating around Cape Horn, Socrates said she has hit unfavourable weather conditions and has fallen behind her planned schedule.

"Obviously my priority is to stay safe," she said.

Socrates was forced to end her bid for the record during a trip in 2016 when strong winds damaged her boat. 

Jeanne Socrates' sailboat near Ogden Point pier in Victoria. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

If she manages this time without setting foot on land or using the boat's engine, she will hold the record for the oldest person to sail solo around the world, non-stop and unassisted. 

Socrates already holds the record for the oldest woman to make such a trip around the world. She set that record over 2012 and 2013 with a 259-day journey that also started and finished in Victoria.

Socrates is using her trip to raise money for for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in Britain. 


Megan Thomas


Megan Thomas is a reporter for CBC in Victoria, B.C. She covers stories from around Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast. Follow her on Twitter @meganTcbc.