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Raw Adventure in Tarifa: Alicia de Pfyffer

Tarifa Adventure - July 1, 2024 - 0 comments

Alicia and her brothers grew up kite-surfing in Tarifa, after her parents decided to relocate the family here in 2001. During her childhood, her father took care of a sailboat owned by the International School, further up the coast, in Sotogrande. Alicia would often go out on the boat with her dad at weekends, igniting a passion for sailing that would eventually change the course of her life. 




At the age of 18, Alicia decided that sailing wasn’t just a hobby for her. Thanks to her parents’ connections, her mum was able to put her in touch with Trafalgar Sailing in Gibraltar who pointed Alicia in the right direction. For the next ten years, Alicia worked on big sailing boats from 30 to 50 meters long. She worked her way up to Officer of the Watch for 3,000 gross tons, which means she can be second in command on a boat up to this weight. 


Alicia was stationed in Majorca at this time, and quickly noticed that on boats of this size, the work is mostly paperwork instead of the maintenance and teamwork she’d grown up around and really enjoyed. She started looking for new opportunities and came across the Mini-Transat. She mentioned this race to her boss, and he had only positive things to say, recommending that she do it. 


With the help of her boyfriend, Edouard Golbery, who has a lot of experience of offshore sailing, they decided to prep for the Mini-Transat by doing a season of double-handed sailing on a Figaro Beneteau 3. Sponsored by Verder and the University of Montpelier, they competed in three races, Transact Paprec 2023, Tour France a la Voile, and the Nastro Rosa Veloce from Venice to Genoa, for which they came in second place. 



The Mini-Transat is an offshore race that takes competitors across the Atlantic, solo sailing, on a small 6.5 m boat with no external assistance and no contact with land allowed. Completing the Mini-Transat is no small task. It demands two years of preparation to be able to deal with the demands of changing ocean and weather conditions and to have time to prepare for the mental challenge of spending weeks at sea, completely alone. 


At the start of 2024, Alicia officially launched her campaign to do the Mini-Transat 2025 edition. To qualify for the Mini-Transat, each competitor must have completed more than 2,500 nautical miles by participating in various offshore races. So far, Alicia has covered 1200 nautical miles, which adds up to four different races. On top of that, a qualifier passage of 1,000 miles from Lorient in Brittany, France up to the coast of Ireland and back again is required. 


Alicia did this passage in April 2024. This was a very different experience to racing as it was the first time she was alone at sea with no competitors around. “What the hell am I doing out here?” she thought to herself when she realized how alone she was. It was the first of many mental challenges she had to overcome during the course of this intense 7-day qualifier. 




To sail this passage, the sailor leaves port at Lorient in Brittany and sails north to a south cardinal off the coast of Ireland. In order to complete this passage, it’s essential to find the perfect weather window due to the high possibility of storms in the north. As part of the qualifying process, each sailor must record their position with a photograph as they pass each marker on the trip, as well as fill in a logbook and sextant sights.


The boat is stripped to make it light. No kitchen. No toilet. No bed. There’s a cabin for shelter, but offers only bare essentials including a bucket, GPS and Jetboil for boiling water. Out at sea, the diet is a mix of dried and hydrated food, basically tasteless sterilized food. Sleeping is difficult because the boat is permanently at a thirty-degree keel. Alicia quickly worked out a routine of catching twenty minutes of sleep here and there. 


“Sleep deprivation is the biggest challenge in offshore sailing,” Alicia says, explaining how she basically slept about two hours every day due to the constant need to trim sails and navigate. But that’s not the biggest challenge. “When you’re out there in the middle of the sea,” she says, “fear consumes you and you basically go into survival mode. It’s a feeling that’s hard to explain. But when you finish, it feels extremely rewarding.” She adds a warning: “You get to know yourself really well.” 




After the qualifying passage in April, Alicia competed in three more single-handed races to build up her nautical miles. At the same time, sailing is not an inexpensive sport, meaning she’s had to organize funding for the Transat too. She’s managed this by launching a crowd-funding campaign to help pay for expenses. 


At every point, the Transat has forced her to dig deep and be resourceful, traits she learned young in Tarifa. Her hard work has paid off. Today, Alicia is currently in 5th place in the French championship ranking, and in 1st place in the women’s category. She is now preparing for her next race, which leaves from Brittany, France, to the Azores and back again. She credits Tarifa for her attitude to sports and grit. 


“Growing up in Tarifa is very different,” she says, “because you’re exposed to so many different cultures. This forces you to learn how to be social and adapt. But on top of that, you see people working hard to earn money to fund their passions, whether it’s spend a season in South Africa or Brazil, or buy kite equipment. Plus, in Tarifa, the sports scene is for everyone, men and women. I have two brothers who always pushed me. And I pushed them too. I never felt different or held back. The opposite. I feel so lucky.”

Want to experience your own Water Sports adventure in Tarifa?

Get in touch with Liz today

Liz's tips

Tarifa has got some of the best wind- and kite-surfing conditions in the world, ranked 3rd worldwide after Hawaii and the Canary Islands. Get in touch and I can set you up with the best schools, so that you can get on with enjoying the adventure of Tarifa. Some of the adventure activities I can set up for you include:

  • Kite-surfing

  • Wind-surfing

  • Wing-foil

  • Scuba-diving

  • Paddle-boarding

  • Whale-watching

  • Sailing