At 33, Samantha Davies is one of world’s most talented offshore sailors of either sex. Sam now lives in Kerlin, in Brittany, where she trains at the elite “Pole France” in Port La Forêt.
The young Samantha dreamed of being a ballerina, but having been around boats from a very early age, sailing eventually took over her life, but not before she had graduated with a Masters in Mechanical Engineering, from St John’s College, Cambridge. Despite shortening Samantha to Sam, there is nothing unfeminine about this young woman, who is a role model for girls with sailing ambitions.
Although Roxy is almost 10 years old, she is a great boat; you are well ahead of Dee and Jonny, and not far behind Brian. What is your secret?
Sam Davies: My secret is that I know Roxy like the back of my hand as I have spent most of the last two years sailing with her. Since I became skipper of Roxy, in 2006, I have competed in a few races (the main ones being the Transat Jacques Vabre and the Artemis Transat), sailed thousands of miles and was also very much involved in a couple of refits we have done. The boat has been adapted to me and also improved to try to keep up with the new ones. So, even though Roxy is an old lady and on paper is less powerful/fast than Aviva or Artemis, the fact is that I know how she works and how to push her, which makes a big difference, especially in a round the world race.
Were there any parts of the run to the equator where you looked back and thought “I should have done it that way instead”?
Sam Davies: To be truly honest, I am very proud of my race so far and that includes the equator. I don’t think I could really have done anything any better, apart from maybe having some ice to chill the champagne a bit!
It’s 10 years since you last attempted to sail round the world, in an ill fated Jules Verne attempt. Do you think that the more RTW experience you have, the better you do?
Sam Davies: I have done a lot of sailing in the last ten years, solo and crewed, from Mini to Open 60. To have experience in round the world races, you have to start with one. Of course I would have loved us to finish 10 years ago, but in the meantime I have learnt a lot from the experience and become more mature. I will do my best to complete the Vendée Globe, bring Roxy back to les Sables d’Olonne in good shape and have a fun experience. That is all I can do for now.
Jérémie Beyou is heading for Brazil with broken spreaders. When you hear of something like that, does it make you start to worry about something breaking on Roxy?
Sam Davies: Whenever I hear news like that, my heart sinks. I feel sorry for whoever it happens to, and obviously even more when it is someone I know well. When news like that comes through, it reminds you that it could be you, but you don’t want to start thinking it will happen to you that very minute. The way I see it is that whatever will be will be, and worrying about things all day long when I have a lot on won’t prevent anything from happening. Sailing is a sport like that. There are a lot of elements and things you cant control and all sailors know it. The only thing I can do is make all my checks and listen to the boat if she tries to tell me something.
You’ve got an engineering degree. Is that a big plus when it comes to keeping the boat in good shape and all the systems going?
Sam Davies: The fact that I have this masters degree is a great bonus. I feel a bit safer with it as apart from major breakages, I should be able to fix pretty much everything onboard Roxy!
Do you have a routine for preventative maintenance?
Sam Davies: I basically check the boat everyday from A to Z to see if something seems unusual. Not doing that could mean finding out too late that something is not right. It all depends on where we are really and in what conditions. I climbed my mast before the equator for a check before heading South, and I can tell you that my ears will be constantly on standby for any unusual noises.
You’ve done crewed, double handed and solo sailing; which is your favourite?
Sam Davies: I love all of it but it all depends on what boat you are sailing on. Crewed on a Mini is not comfy. Double handed on Figaro is really fun and makes life easier because Figaro racing is really intense. Onboard Roxy, crewed is great, but not for more than a couple of weeks. I had a lot of fun bringing the boat back from Boston in May with three of the Roxy boys, but was happy to be back on my own afterwards with no smelly socks anymore!
You are a heroine to many youngsters. What advice would you give to a girl who wants to follow in your footsteps?
Sam Davies: Just do whatever you can to reach your goals and make your dreams come true. Work hard: it will always pay off!
How do you feel about the shore duties you have to do for your sponsor? Did you, for example, enjoy meeting people in the Village, or do you find things like that a chore?
Sam Davies: Being in Les Sables d’Olonne itself was like being in a fairytale, as it meant that I was going to be one of the very few people attempting to sail solo non stop around the world. The three week build-up to the start was both amazing and emotional. I felt really privileged to be asked to sign posters and pose for pictures. It was all very specific to magic of this race. I have to admit that it was harder towards the end as I was already over the start line in my head, and so was a bit less available for all the earthling requests. While at sea, as long as everything is ok onboard Roxy, I enjoy doing interviews or a live with Roxy staff. I have the chance to be able to tell my story and I won’t miss out on it.
Your messages from Roxy always seem cheerful, but there must be some things that get you down. What do you find hardest to cope with?
Sam Davies: It might sound a bit cliché, but I am by nature a cheerful person. On Roxy, I am in my element and just feel as happy as Larry. Tougher times will come, but I will deal with it at the time.
Whenever I feel down (which never lasts anyway!), I find a way to cheer myself up as quickly as possible. I was frustrated one night before the equator because of being stuck and having Brian on my heels, but instead of getting angry, I put on some music to get myself back in a positive mode.
Have you thought about your next target, after this race?
Sam Davies: I know my team is working on that as there are a few races we could potentially compete in. However, I am putting all my efforts into the Vendée Globe at the moment, especially as our plans could suddenly change at any minute!
One last question that I’m sure will interest our female readers. Ocean racing has to be tough on the skin, what do you do on board to keep yours looking so good?
Sam Davies: I bring a lot of high factor suncream and am always wearing some! I am probably one of the only sailors with a mirror as I like to look after myself.