Artemis Transat Blog
Press Date 7 May. - Source www.theartemistransat.com
Steve White becomes the 13th man in the IMOCA Class.
The big news today certainly is the official entry of Steve White aboard Spirit of Weymouth in the IMOCA Class taking the number of IMOCA skippers to thirteen. Having completed his qualifying passage, the young Brit takes his place amongst a very impressive lineup of all the greatest names in singlehanded sailing with only four days remaining until the start on Sunday, 11th May at 1400 BST..
Press Date 8 May. - Source www.theartemistransat.com
Steve White, the "13th man".
Steve White, 35, the latest addition to the IMOCA fleet in The Artemis Transat, admits he started sailing "by accident, with a friend who bought a boat but didn't have a tow bar on his car. I did, helped him out, sailed with him because he was nervous to go alone... and a couple of years later I found myself buying a 30 footer." But the big life-changing experience came in 1998, when Steve had a chance to round the Fastnet on a 67-ft boat in tough conditions. "We set off from Plymouth, and were blown off our boots by 35 - 40-knot winds, it was great. I drove home, quit my job and decided that the Vendée Globe was my goal. I had followed Christophe Auguin's race and it had fascinated me."
Then working in the classic car restoration business, Steve joined a boatyard and soon ended up in Pete Goss's team, building Team Philips and refitting the Aqua Quorum 50'.
"I did some boat building, quite a few deliveries and started sailing more and more. In 1998, I joined Challenge Business (Sir Chay Blyth's company, organising RTW races for amateurs) where I trained the crews aboard 67-ft and 72-ft monohulls. I stayed there 4 years, and won the OSTAR in 2005 aboard Mike Plant's old 50', designed by Roger Martin... After that I bought Josh Hall's Gartmore, and since then we've been looking for sponsors. It's very strange for me to actually think I'm here in this fleet that gathers the best sailors in the world, and it took us (editor's note: Steve works on his campaign with his wife and an associate) a lot of effort to just reach the start... The ultimate goal is to find a major sponsor and to build a new boat for the 2012 Vendée: The Artemis Transat is the first major stepping stone for us."
Press Date 11 May. Steve's Start - Kim's perspective.
As we slipped our mooring and headed out through the dock gates towards the start line of the Artemis Transat 2008 on a beautiful warm sunny morning, the smile on Steve's face was obvious. We left the humdrum of the race village with its seemingly unending entertainment, market stalls, and spectators, old friends and well wishers, which had been our life for the past week. With final fairwells, we left Steve and Spirit of Weymouth, and Jumped into the RIB with just minutes to spare before the race start.
Steve was ready to go, chomping at the bit to get down to the job in hand, sailing almost 3000 miles across the unforgiving North Atlantic.
Steve has to 'take it easy' during this race and simply get to Boston. This is not just a race, it is the qualifier for the Vendee Globe, and that is Steve's ultimate goal this year!
All was well as Steve and his Open 60 disappeared into the sea haze towards the Eddystone light.
While Steve is away, there is a lot to be done, not only supporting him in this race, but preparing for the Vendee Globe.
The first boats are now past the Lizard. Check out the charts for positions.
Press Date 12 May. Report from Steve.
It's amazing what a difference 24 hours can make, I have gone from being
ecstatic and relieved (and really tired) at getting both to and across the
start line yesterday, only to be fairly fed up at being caught too close
inshore around the Lizard and Lands End - I know them well enough, I
shouldn't have been there and it cost me dear in terms of miles lost to the
other boats - to complete despair when I couldn't get my e-mails, my Sat C
lost it's marbles and I STILL couldn't get any weather! (Which explained why
I probably went a different way to everyone else!). Sitting in the fog with
no wind as everyone else dissappears is pretty gutting.
Still, the despondency was only short-lived - I had porridge for breakfast,
had a sleep, got talked through the multitude of comms problems and then ate
a whole French cheese of some sort that Kim had bought at the market in the
Race Village. I feel right as ninepence now - I know where I'm going now
and we have some breeze - what more could you ask for!
I also need to thank everyone who has helped to get me here, this race is
pretty important to us. Firstly I'd like to thank Kim who holds everything
together and without whose support non of this would be possible, but I also
want to thank Simon from bluQube, Dave from Mako, Casper from Damen, my son
Jason for three weeks of boat prep, Josh Hall and Mark Wylie, Peter for his
tireless work and support keeping me and White Ocean Racing on the straight
and narrow, Shally, Martin for getting me some meths for the stove at 1000
yesterday, and to countless friends and people I hardly know who have helped
or just wished us well - it's only now when I sit down to write a list that
I realise just how much help we've had. I could go on for ages, if I've not
mentioned you, you know who you are, thanks.
Press Date 13 May. - Source www.theartemistransat.com
Steve White's northern option pays off.
The Spirit of Weymouth moved into 11th place, benefiting from more wind than Aviva and Pakea Bizkaia 2009. Northernmost skipper in the fleet, Steve White sails in stronger breeze (15 knots against 10 further South).
Press Date 13 May 08. - Steve's second update.
I thought I'd take the opportunity to write this as I was rudely awoken by the boat broaching - broaching for the uninitiated is where a nice downwind sail suddenly becomes an upwind one due to the action of a larger than average wave or gust spinning the boat around - the boat usually falls on it's side a bit and all the sails flap. This was a mild one by my standards, but it was enough to wake me!
Downstairs at the chart table it's shorts weather. My green mascot that the boys bought me called Gruffy (a green and fluffy monster) is safely wedged in behind one of the electric fans at the chart table. I put him there because I thought "I won't need the fans, it'll be the heater I'll want"but I was wrong - with the engine on to charge the batteries and the sun blazing in through the windows it's like an oven downstairs. To have brilliant sunshine and downwind sailing is really unusual. On the last occasions I have done this trip the skies have been cloudy, rainy but more usually foggy, and we have very definitely been going upwind! I am not complaining however!
I feel a bit better now I am not at the back any more, I just have to wait for my opportunity to get South when I can without losing any places, but am in such a nice band of stronger winds here it seems a shame to waste it by diving south. There's plenty of time left yet, here's still a long way to go.........
Press Date 14 May. - Steve's blog Number 3.
Hurray! I finally downloaded some weather in one go when I wanted it! I don't know what it is that I have done to the server that is so bad that it is always "not responding" or "timing out", but let's hope it's going to be good from now on.So far all I have had is a phone bill as big as my teenage daughter Eryn's, and not a lot else to show for it.
Meanwhile on the food front, all of my fresh milk has turned into curds and whey or similar, I tried to shake it back together again, and it was OK in my porridge, but I think it's safer to jettison it, so I'm down to the powdered stuff now - it's never the same in tea, although I do get used to it.
I have had some company over the past couple of days, I had a swallow at the chart table for a couple of hours before he flew off again - he flew in past my right ear and landed on top of an instrument display and went to sleep! He didn't unfortunately hang around log enough to get rid of my other visitor, the world's most elusive fly. I'm afraid he is about to find out the hard way that this is not a two handed race - chart plotters at dawn!
Right now I am back under big spinnaker - it used to say "SILL" across the middle, but we took a 1.5 metre slice out across the middle because it was too long, so now Sill looks vaguely like something written in runes, and that will be my answer if anyone asks what it says!
On the sailing front, yes I am looking for an opportunity to come south, I haven't forgotten the ice gate! I just have to bide my time.
Press Date 15 May. - Steve's blog Number 4.
Once again the light winds / no wind did for us in the middle of the night.
We had our own personal Doldrums, or "Pot au Noir" as I think the French
call it which is much more descriptive! What wind we had when we had it
allowed us to travel only at 90 degrees to the desired course, and then for
only about 20 minutes at a time before we stopped again. I had every sail
onboard up at one time or another through the night! The wind returned as
quickly as it left us, and we are underway nicely again now.
Hence we are at the back of the fleet again, although not for long I hope.
My weather information remains patchy - after three attempts and 30 minutes
of phone time used up I had two corrupted files I couldn't view properly or
trust. It does look as though from what I have got that the rest of the
fleet will have some light stuff to deal with soon that I shall (hopefully)
be to the North of - swings and roundabouts I suppose.
Still, I am happy just to be out here, and we have a long way to go yet.
It's really strange this time, I have seen hardly any birds, no dolphins
which is even more unusual, and I was beginning to feel like I was up here
completely alone, but last night as we ghosted along (when we could sail
that is) in the pitch black of a cloudy night I was treated to a light show
from the surrounding plankton which flashed spectacularly as the bow wave
disturbed them as we passed, setting off a chain reaction of flashes
radiating away from the boat.
Yesterday afternoon I took the opportunity to slice up a new furling line
which is used to roll the rolled up sails that go on the end of the
bowsprit. I ordered 45 metres from Chumley Prime in Southampton, who asked
me whether I minded what colour I had. Why I asked? Well he said, if I had
yellow it would be cheaper - that was fine with me. When it arrived it was
not entirely yellow, it was fluorescent green. It was so bright I didn't
need any decklights last night - you know it was the colour of those bad
shoelaces people had in the 1980's. By the time I had finished splicing it
and cutting bits up the cockpit looked like Kermit the frog had had a fight
with a lawnmower and lost.
By the way, the fly tried to set a record for the longest ever non stop
flight - he set off for Ireland - I watched him go.
Press Date 16 May. - Steve's blog Number 5. A peaceful night?
I don't know who it is that keeps turning the wind off at night. You might think that a windless night for sailor would mean a good nights sleep, but the opposite is the case. Light and variable wind makes the nights far from restful as you try and work out what it's going to do and where it's going to blow from next.
If there is such a thing as a bad night out here then I suppose we had it - I keep trading places with Dee, and went from infront of her last night to behind again this morning. I am waiting for a 180 degree wind shift, and when it sorts its itself out then I'll be playing catch-up again.As I write this the wind speed and hence the boat speed goes up and down, and we swerve all over the place like Starsky and Hutch as the wind struggles to stabilise - come on wind, sort it out! On a good note, we have only lost 2 miles on the race leaders overnight,so perhaps they have been struggling too.
I was thinking last night as I briefly got into bed that sailing offshore must be heaven for a small boy - certainly my two smaller sons Isaac and Euan would love it - you don't have to wash, you go to bed when you want or not at all, you can even go to bed with your wellies on and nobody shouts at you, but best of all you can have chocolate pudding whenever you want!
I also thought overnight about the way the race has swept so many people up,not only my immediate friends and family, and those of the other competitors too, but seemingly the whole of the South West - everyone in the area seemed to be aware of it. For example, two of the four big batteries on board were useless, so we talked to Tom from a company called Allbatteries, (they supply batteries for things that you didn't even know had batteries in!) In view of the timescale around our last minute entry, Tom arranged for them to be shipped straight from Exide. Florence there was really helpful, but she couldn't ship in time either, so I was allowed to use Ocean Safety's account with Tuffnells in Ivybridge to get around the problem. By the time everything had been sorted out it was past the 4:30 pm cut off for arranging collection by Tuffnells, but in despair I said to the Anna at Tufnells "I've just bought two batteries now and I can't get them 'till Monday and the boat that they're for goes to America on Sunday" and said no more than that. The response was "Are you one of the Artemis Transat competitors? OK, I'll see what I can do" frantic tapping on a keyboard at the other end - "They will be here in Ivybridge for you to collect on Saturday morning - we have ways of getting round things for special cases" Lots of things were like that, I never had to mention the race, everyone put two and two together and fell over backwards to help which was brilliant. We need more events like this to start or finish in the UK. Special thanks to Anna at Tuffnells, Tom at Allbatteries, Florence at Exide and particularly to Alistair and Ian at Ocean Safety who made a huge effort to supply all of my safety kit in time.
Anyway time for breakfast - porridge again! Let's see what the new day brings.
Press Date 17 May. - Steve's blog Number 6. Calm Progress.
This is some pretty weird weather we're having here at the moment. In 2005 after the OSTAR race I bough the boat home from Newport RI with my Dad, and it felt like we motored all the way back as far as Ireland - not very much fun on a 50 foot boat with a 20 hp engine - we missed our homecoming celebration! There was less wind then than there is now, but not by much. Again three hours of flat calm early this morning - there's nothing you can do as the current gently wafts you back towards the UK at half a knot! Frustrating.
Yesterday I made a proper David Attenborough of myself. I saw black shapes rolling towards the boat through the gentle swell and thought great! - quick as a flash I grabbed the video camera and thought "Right, I can show the kids some dolphins, they've only seen them on TV before". (Goodness knows how I thought they would see these ones.....) The commentary began; "Here come the dolphins at last, oh no, pilot whales. Oh, dolphins. No, I'm losing it, they are pilot whales.....Ah, it's both". (Identification of wildlife - one of my strong points as you can see) I don't know what they were up to, but all the larger pilot whales, about eight in total were in a group so close as to be almost touching, with dozens of dolphins seemingly rounding them up and pressing them together. I love to see the dolphins but after years of watching them I'm not convinced that they are always that friendly - we'll never know what they were doing.
As I stood at the stove cooking tea I wondered about the people who had stood here before me - Josh Hall, the first owner took the boat around the world in the Vendee Globe in 2000, next Emma Richards did Around Alone in 2002 as Pindar, then it had a mixed history until we bought it almost two years ago to the day. Then I caught site of my vitamin pills and my thoughts evaporated - it looks for all the world like there is a picture of Cheri Blair on the front! That gave me a shock - perhaps they need the extra income now you know who is not the PM any more? I'll put a picture on the website when I get in - you can make your own mind up!
In Plymouth Alex Bennet was most positive that as long as I had music to listen to, everything else was less of a consequence. I do now own an ipod,I did bring it and it is a great tool. We had Neil Diamond, Ryan Adams,Newton Faulkner and lots of other stuff yesterday - I can sing as much as I like and nobody complains - maybe that's why I'm not seeing to much wildlife! I did think if I drowned out the radar alarm with the howling then it would be a pretty poor excuse in front of an Admiralty court (or Davy Jones depending on how badly it went) "Well your honour, I was singing and just didn't see that ship........
Press Date 18 May. - Steve's blog Number 7. News from the north.
Well I must admit in some ways it has been nice not to have the position
reports, but now they are back- you know and we know where we are now! I had
convinced myself that I was at the back, it was only a question of by how
much. I have had a bit of a time of it - every time I convinced myself to
tack, it was fine for a few minutes whilst the wind gods lured me into a
false sense of security, the breeze shifted again and I was once again on
the wrong tack! What with that and being further North than Father
Christmas's back garden had convinced me that my position was not good, so
imagine my surprise when I returned from the en suite this morning to a
better result than expected!
On the plus side, every time you tack you have to re-stack gear and sails (I
had three on deck but did a deal with myself, and now I have only two!)
which weigh a ton when they get soggy - there are shiny trails in the deck
where I have been polishing the paint on the deck by dragging them from side
to side - anyway, I digress, the plus side is that my fat stomach has moved
uphill by about 12 inches - no that does not mean I now have a fat chest
instead, I am getting back into shape! I have only been sailing three times
this year, (there just has not been the time whilst we looked for sponsors
in addition to bluQube) - Gosport to Weymouth, the qualifier and now the
race, so its not surprising I had gone to seed!
I had a good chat with a ship yesterday, the Montreal Express, a massive
containership bound for Antwerp. He came flying across in front of me doing
20.3 knots and then a very polite foreign gentleman called up on the VHF
just to check if I was OK, I told him what we were up to and asked him to
watch out for the others. "Are you in the lead?" he asked, "I've not seen
any other yachts", "Not quite" I replied, "it's just that I'm the only one
daft enough to be this far North!"
Kim amused me as well yesterday. I thought I'd try and rationalise my food.
I rummaged around in my boxes and found all sorts of stuff. Ah, great, pesto
I though, two pots in a bag, on the bag was written "Pesto, add pasta" Lucky
she warned me, might have had it on biscuits or something instead, then I
found a box marked "Eggs, fragile", and thought she really must think I'm
daft! I think she's probably right! I love her really, lots infact!
On the psychological front I achieved a couple of little milestones,
firstly, I got to grips with the GPS which is totally non logical, and I
have added a waypoint for which we are now headed called ICEGAT (I can only
have 6 letters!). When I get additional sponsors for the Vendee Globe this
GPS can follow most of my other possessions and go the e-bay way and I shall
have a new one that I can operate! Secondly, and more importantly, I have
changed the engine control over from the one in the cockpit that makes the
boat go ahead and astern and fast and slow so you can drive the thing, to a
pure throttle control downstairs so I can adjust the revs from down here for
charging batteries and pumping water ballast. That is only significant to me
because it means I am offshore with the boat at long last, not as has been
the case for two years where we have always been on short trips and only a
few hours away from a marina and needing the engine for propulsion in or
Anyway, time for breakfast once again, as we are now going along nicely in
vaguely the right direction!
Press Date 19 May. - Steve's blog Number 8. Bouncing along nicely.
Just a short one today, I am trying to get a quick nap in before lunch, and
I've only just had breakfast! I dozed at the chart table last night as the
wind shifted and then shifted back again, and we accordingly tacked and
stacked, and then did it all again! It was just building nicely and we were
soling straight at the ice gate, I had come off the deck to hear the phone
ringing - it was about 5 am! Your immediate reaction when you get a call at
that time is either it's an emergency or someone is being a pest! I picked
up the phone and resisted saying "Do you know what the time is???!!!!" , and
discovered a very polite OC person who wanted to interview me - goodness
knows why! He reminded me of my Mother, he asked if I was getting enough
sleep and was I getting enough to eat!
After that is was reef time - move the mainsail down the mast to make it
smaller and squash up the spare material at the bottom - which happens all
the time as the wind strength goes up, and the opposite happens as it gets
less windy. Anyway, you all knew that I'm sure. Pleased with my efforts I
put the porridge on, that was at about 6 ish I think.I got to eat it at
about 11 after I had put another reef in and changed sails at the front as
the wind built more and more. We are currently going upwind in about 23
knots and the boat is happy even if typing is difficult as we bounce
around.This boat is hard work between 15 or 16 knots and 22 knots - you go
from having full main and solent, (the rolled up sail that lives at the
front) and two reefs and the smaller staysail at the front within a very
small wind range of about 5 knots, so as everything is a reasonable amount
of work, particularly if you do the wrong thing and have to undo it straight
away, you spend a lot of time scratching your head ad saying "Is this just a
bit windier under this cloud?" or "Is it going to get less windy in a minute
so I can live with too much sail for a while?" You inevitably spend time
with the boat lying on it's side over-canvassed or bobbing around like a
rubber duck in the bath with not enough sail up! Coupled to that some of
our sails are not as new as they once were (Two are original 1998 vintage)
and we have to look after old rigging by not pushing too hard so that the
mast stays up, but at the same time remembering we are in a race, which
despite my position is at the forefront of my mind! That's why it takes 5
hours to get breakfast sometimes.
On the plus side, I have had a stiff neck for the past few days which seems
to have gone now. I think it is a recurrence of an old combine driving
injury - sitting hunched over the wheel with furrowed brow looking into the
table on the front day after day used to give me a bad neck - I am now in
the same position and with furrowed brow but with the comms, weather and
computer at the chart table instead. I have, as a consequence, been very
glad of my Buff. A Buff is a very versatile and useful piece of kit which is
everything from a hat to a neckwarmer and many other things all at once.
Mine has Gore Tex Windstopper as well, so it is ideal for keeping the
draughts off a stiff neck and stopping waves getting down your thermals!
All the team including the kids were supplied with Buffs, which was very
This is getting a bit of a chore to write now, the wind is building and the
keyboard is moving as am I, as the boat slams away towards the ice gate. As
a consequence every second word is miss-spelt as I accidentally hit the
wrong keys. My spell checker will get a real workout!
Press Date 20 May 08. - Steve's blog Number 9. Now we're moving!.
Now this is more like it - it's even more difficult to type today than
yesterday. We are reaching along at 14 to 16 knots in 20 to 25 knots of wind
as a weather front comes through. There is the occasional lull for two
minutes whilst we go between clouds, and it won't be long before we're
through the front completely, I can see light on the horizon. The boat slams
straight into yesterdays waves which are coming straight at us, so the boat
slams with deafening crashes and water comes hurtling down the deck. My
washing up is in the cockpit as it is very close to a giant dishwasher up
there, it just does itself with no input from me. Cooking porridge this
morning I had to hold the pan down with the spoon rather than stirring with
it because it was so bouncy! This is the sort of sailing I love.
OK, back now, I had to go on deck. As quick as that, the front has gone
through, just the last bits of rain to pass over us, and once again, we are
hard on the wind which is again blowing straight from the ice gate at about
16 knots! Typical!
These boats are very flat on the bottom and wide like a tea tray with a
pointy front. In fact if you forget about the keel, the actual hull of this
boat will float in only nine inches of water - with the keel you need 4.5
This makes them great boats to sail across or down the waves because theyre
really surf boards, but they slam like mad as you pound into the waves as you
go upwind. If it really windy and you are going upwind, they slam so hard I
swear that if you lie down you can feel your brain wobbling about in your
head - "Don't lie down then" I hear you say - that may of course be the
answer, that or just don't go upwind!
Yesterday we passed very close to Milne Bank, which is a way from the Grand
Banks. It is a little underwater mountain the peak of which is only 102
metres from the surface; still quite deep you say, but around it the water
is three to four thousand metres deep. It has an effect on the North
Atlantic Current which is forced to go around the outside, and probably lots
of fish and other creatures call it home as the swirling current brings them
I have to go now and shake another reef out now we know that the front
doesn't have a sting in it's tail, sometimes you think they are through and
you get another one straight afterwards which blows even harder that the
first!! Now Unai has retired I am at the back, so I really have to pull my
finger out and get a move on!
Bye for now.
Press Date 21 May. - Steve's blog Number 10. - Icegate Approaches.
Hi, later than usual today with this, things have been a bit busy - I only
just had my porridge, not that it's porridge weather, the sun is out and it
is beautiful and warm, there is a bit of wind from the North East, about 7
or 8 knots to be precise, and we now have the big spinnaker up as we head
down towards the - you've guessed it - ice gate, although we should be
around it tomorrow.
The reason for the delay is that all last night an this morning I have been
busy on deck. Last night on a southerly tack I found myself in a massive
eddy of the Gulf Stream, this was a friendly current this one, it was
running south at between 2 and 3 knots in places, but with wind against tide
it was like being one mile off Portland Bill in the race but for a few
hours, and the wind was gusting up and down which kept me at it, reefs in
and out, then through the rest of the night we went straight down the line
pretty much before changing to gennaker and then the big spinnaker which is
up now. Again, yesterdays swell is coming straight at us making it hard to
keep the sails full, but we are moving and I am thankful.
I gave myself a birthday yesterday and gave my hair a quick oilchange
(wash!) in the sink - it was a real novelty afterwards to feel the wind
actually blowing through it rather than around it like something off a
Brylcream advert! Shaving I have left for another day, that will be a bit of
a job, I don't want to rush things by doing too much on the personal
grooming front in one go, people will think I'm turning into David Beckham
I had a slight culinary disaster yesterday, I was cooking packet pasta, my
speciality, when we fell off a big wave whilst I didn't have hold of the
pot. Most of the contents went all over the one and only mattress that is on
board, and a bit got on my sleeping bag. After eating what supper I had
saved, the mattress cover got put outside in the combined washer drier aka
the guardwires, where it was washed in the rain and dried in the sun, then
put back on. I couldn't think of anything worse than arriving in Boston with
the boat smelling of milk and cheese sauce! I think we have got away with it
luckily, I don't think US immigration would let me in smelling like that!
For super I found Mexican Beanfeast, with a can of baked beans and half a
packet of smash.As soon as I found it I immediately fancied it, got it all
cooking and then drove into my Gulf Stream eddy - I had three things to cook
all at once, and we all know that blokes can only do one thing at a time, so
trying to trying to keep pans and kettles on the go and not spilt as he boat
bounced around like mad was quite a feat, for me anyway.
Now I have to go back on deck, the wind is about to change again and I have
to keep my eye on the ball and keep the boat going - remember I can only do
one thing at once!
Press Date 21 May. - Steve White tells of collision....
From Steve White onboard Spirit of Weymouth: "It's a real shame for Vincent. We have a keel designed to hit ground at 12 knots [Spirit of Weymouth has a fixed keel] and not worry about it! We have 4 times more carbon in this keel than Delta Dore's keel/daggerboards. I ran into something a couple of days ago - don't know what - but impact big enough to throw me from companionway step that I was sitting on to the cockpit floor. There was a big scrape mark on the rudder... 9-10 knots NE and lumpy see so difficult as keeps stopping boat. I've managed to come down (south) quite nicely - just need to examine position reports to see what happens to Dee. We need to get more south but keep going west! We have a wind hole ahead of us. "
Press Date 22 May. - Steve's blog Number 11. - Days of contrast.
Well, what a difference a day makes as they say. Yesterday was simply
glorious, bright sunshine and light winds - downwind for most of the day,
and this morning here we are pounding upwind at around 9 knots into the Gulf
Stream, which reduces our speed over the ground by nearly a knot and makes
for a short sea like you get in the English Channel.
Yesterday evening I got prepared for a slog upwind, and made sure we had
plenty of diesel in the little tank that the engine draws from an a daily
basis and topped up the water in the jerry can at the sink that the tap
pumps from, as carrying 25 litre jerry cans full of water on deck is a bit
dodgy, and you do tend to pour more over the inside of the boat than you get
in the can when the boat is bouncing around! A chap who owns a well known
yard in France that a lot of these boats got to be worked on came down to
this boat when I had jut bought it. He came on board, scrubbed his feet on
the deck and announced very theatrically "This deck will kill you!" What he
really meant was a lot of the non slip has worn away and it can be pretty
treacherous up there, particularly if you are lugging jerry cans and sails
around at large angles of heel! I have not repainted it because if you don't
do a really good job you finish up with something that looks like woodchip
wallpaper in some places and smooth in others which would look appalling on
such a large flat area! I am just careful and so far it hasn't tried to kill
In the light winds of yesterday I went to the low side of the boat at the
bow, where here are no ripples on the water because of the windshadow of the
hull, and you could see that the sea was just like soup - millions of
shrimpy things of varying sizes, krill I suppose, and small jellyfish, jut
small forms of life as far as you could see in the clear deep blue water. At
night when they get washed on deck these things flash a luminescent green
colour as they lie in the nooks and crannies and in the ropes before the
next wave washes them back into the sea.
I did manage to catch the sun too across my back. It is OK, but I do know
it's there this morning! I felt I'd had enough sun at a point yesterday
afternoon, but then left my shirt off whilst I had a shave which was a
mammoth undertaking that I tackled, you've guessed it, in the cockpit with
my back to the sun and my shirt still off! I only have myself to blame!
Not much chance of sunburn today, you need oilskins to be on deck. I am
hoping that we can just nip inside the Western end of the ice gate, we are
just and just making it on this tack with nothing to spare. It would be the
final twist of the knife to have to tack again to get round it. Cross your
finger, and if anyone you know has a direct line to Percy the Wind God as
David Beckett calls him, perhaps you'd give him a nudge and ask him to do us
a favour for once!
Press Date 23 May. - Steve's blog Number 12. - Now we're moving!.
I was going to write this last night, but I just stood for a while watching
the boatspeed, and in the end left the boat to it and went to bed whist we
were hurtling along at up to 18 knots, but always more than 16.
Yesterday left me feeling totally drained. It was a real slog getting down
to the ice gate. We had wind speed in the high twenties of knots and a
horrible sea state caused by the current which runs against us at around 2
to 2.5 knots in places which I find incredible, that such a huge body of
water should be moving that fast.
Approaching the icegate the sea was so short and steep with not massive
waves, but just really close together with no backs, so the boat just kept
falling into massive holes with boat breaking slams, and then being stopped
dead by the next crest immediately in front of it. If you sped up by turning
slightly away from the wind you slammed worse, if you slowed down to lessen
the slamming by turning slightly into the wind you stopped, and I was really
concerned that we were going to lose the mast, the shock loads were
tremendous. I opted for slower and spent a lot of time
on deck, but with 2.5 knots of current against us our speed over the ground
was down to 4 knots at times which was absolutely crushing mentally, when
you know everyone else is flying away from you.
Anyway, evidently nobody spoke to Percy, the wind stuffed us good and proper
and we were going to have to tack to get down the last few miles to the
gate, which would mean tuning South East with the wind direction and counter
current. Whilst I was on the phone commiserating to Kim as is my want, there
was a bang, I looked through the window and the staysail was sliding right
up it's stay. I slammed the phone down, rushed out on deck to turn the boat
downwind before it stalled, and went forward to inspect the damage
(meanwhile going away from the waypoint at 11 knots!) The last time that
happened to me the webbing loop on the bottom corner of the sail had pulled
out, which meant the end if that sail for a long while, so it could be that
agin this time or it could have been the lashing holding the sail down to the deck that had broken, but no,
I was really surprised when I got up there, it was one of the very expensive
pad eyes (U-bolt things!) which had just broken - 10mm high tensile stainless bar just
sheered off due to the slamming! Failure of this fitting cost Pindar their
Round Britain race a few years ago, but luckily we have two pad eyes, so I
wrestled the sail down, re-lashed it to the good one, re hoisted and was
back on course in under half an hour, not bad, but it had cost us 6 miles!
I did tack the boat shortly after to head south to find that the autopilot
would NOT steer on starboard tack whatever I did - we finished up head to
wind, layed right over, and generally lurching about whilst I sorted out the
water ballast, stacked sails and total mayhem upstairs and down from
being very heeled over! I am not one for shouting, but I found myself
screaming into the wind to give us a break, I had had enough! I called the
ice gate and the Gulf Stream lots of things, non of them nice.
The pilot and I settled on a sort of course to get us South, and I thought
I'd just as well stay on the losing tack for another half an hour, cross the
gate and then immediately head back across it again, this time heading for
Boston. I phoned the Race office, checked it was OK to do so, tacked back,
unrolled the solent, and it was a beam reach now to Boston! The sense of
relief was enormous, I was absolutely knackered. The boat speed was up at
around 18 knots at times, and always greater than 16. We were still in that
awkward sea state, but now the slams weren't the bone jarring "Oh dear I've
stopped" kind, they were "Get out of the way I am coming through" kind, and
the water coming down the deck was no longer 50 million ton dropping on you,
it was fire hosing down the deck at high speed - the boat was a Finot doing
what Finot's do best - wind on the beam, up comes the bow and you're off,
As I stood downstairs I mentally held up a very low number of fingers to the
ice gate and the Gulf Stream. I was going to write this last night whilst I
was still on a high from making the final turn, but I stood watching the numbers and then fell
asleep for a short while - the radar alarm went off continually through the
night keeping me awake, set off by rain clouds!
When I went on deck this morning to shake a reef out it was much colder. It
seemed so un-natural to have oilskins and only your underwear on underneath;
downstairs it was like a steam room, so this is fine with me, proper
sailing - plenty of clothes, nice and cool, beam reaching at 15 knots, no
nasty Gulf Stream holding us back that is well behind us - perfect, it makes
up for yesterday!
And you thought we'd given up here at the back and were on a go-slow; NOT A
Press Date 25 May. - Steve's blog Number 13. - Thunder and lightening.
My apologies for not writing yesterday, it all got a bit fraught. If you
read below you'll see why........
We made good progress away from the ice gate that night (which now seems
like a distant memory!), and headed off on the final leg toward Boston. I
always feel like when I get to the Grand Banks or that longitude at any
rate, that you are nearly there. Obviously this is not the case, you still
have the best part of 1000 miles of racing still to go. This is the most
tactical part too, with the Gulf Stream and it's eddies, changeable
weather - the weather systems that generally finish up in the UK are born
here where you have warm water and cooler air, and this is where I fell
foul - you remember the clouds in the last blog?
I've never been one for worrying too much about clouds, I have had the odd
really nasty one with lots of wind coming out of it, but generally you just
plough on through. The clouds from the night before last were continually of
the windy kind.By this time we were going upwind again, and there was an
increase in wind as we went under the clouds, then, when we got to the
raining clouds, there was some serious wind. It would go from 10 or 14 knots
to 25 or 30 - the most we saw was 32 I think, which is not that much, but
when you have sails up for 10 knots, you are quite over-canvassed in a
second! And rain, boy, did it rain, like you've never seen before, pouring
and blowing so as to flatten the waves. The power was awe-inspiring, big,
black anvil topped clouds 20 miles across and more with wind and rain
heading unavoidably towards you blotting out the stars.
Anyway, we got used to watching them come in on the radar (the rain shows up
on radar), then dashing up on deck, putting in two reefs and just sitting
becalmed, waiting to get nailed by an advancing wall of wind and rain that
marches towards you, blowing the tops off the waves as it comes.There's
nowhere to hide as the boat is often lays completely flat. Sometimes the
wind was from a different direction altogether, and it would blow the sails
back against the rigging and knock you over with the water ballast on the
wrong side, creating boiling seething water below you as you cling to the
deck which is heeled over to around 60 degrees- not a time to have a smooth
deck or a nervous disposition either! The power is incredible and a little
frightening with the ferocity and suddenness of the gusts - it's a bit like
my bank statements, you know there coming, and you know they're going to be
unpleasant, but you can't avoid them! Then they go and leave as suddenly as
they came, leaving you floundering in their windless wake.
I was just getting used to this every half hour or so when a new element was
introduced, lightening. Now you know the TV program about the world's worst
weather which shows some very pretty purple lightening in the opening shots,
we had it for real here, it was incredible - every minute without fail,
giant purple flashes illuminating everything just like daylight. Being in a
boat at sea you are the tallest thing for miles around, and a perfect
lightening conductor. My friend was struck by lightening three times at sea,
and I honestly thought that it was my turn then. I was concerned enough to
turn off most electrical things in the hope that they wouldn't get fried,
and I tried to sail around the worst and flashiest clouds whilst consoling
myself with the thought that sheet lightening goes between the clouds and
not to ground - I don't know if that is right but it made me feel much
better! I had just convinced myself that this was indeed true when we
started to get
fork lightening too, which definitely was coming down. You can picture it
now; towering massive clouds, no wind or loads and loads, torrential rain
and also lightening. I really thought my time had come. I stayed in the
cockpit so if I got struck and only moderately fried, I wouldn't fall
overboard at least!
I thought we had done a good job avoiding the worst flashes, but inevitably,
all around there was one with my name on it - I couldn't get out of the way.
There was sheet and then forked lightening very, very close to the boat, and
you could smell it, then the usual excessive wind and rain, and then it had
passed. I don't know how we weren't hit, but I was very thankful that we
This went on all of the night before last, with the clouds losing their sun
given energy and their vehemence by the dawn only to build again through
yesterday. You can imagine with what felt like one cloud every hour or
less, no cooked food, and reefs in and out like a yo-yo coupled with the odd
minutes sleep here and there that I was feeling pretty low and very burned
out by now. My frustration became complete when the wind between the clouds
died to around 5 knots, and whatever I did I could only sail to the North
East or South East away from Boston because again, we were in a 2 knot eddy
of the Gulf Stream which was against us, I began to wonder what this sailing
lark was all about!
By midnight your time last night, there was a beautiful sunset, and we
finally had enough breeze to start very slowly heading or Boston. It built
slowly through the night and now we are heading in as fast as we can under
spinnaker. I feel like a new person - a proper meal and some sleep, and an
easy day ahead I hope, and I will be back to 100%! Life is simple out here,
it doesn't take too much for body and soul to bounce back, and for bad
things to become vague memories. I don't want to put any reefs in for a bit though I
can tell you!
Press Date 26 May 08. - Steve's blog Number 14. - Sailing with company.
Yesterday was a perfect evening, the boat trundling along nicely, flat sea,
cool wind, perfect sunset and straight down the line towards Boston out of
the counter currents of the Gulf Stream. A beautiful sunset preceded a clear
cold night with a full panoramic view of the stars in all of their glory,
with no light pollution to take the edge off those closest to the horizon as
you get at home. When I was on deck at one point the dolphins came back
again - I watched them briefly and then went to get the video camera,
because even though it was dark and the sea seemed at first to have much
less life than the Gulf Stream, the dolphins where leaving bioluminescent
trails - you could see the outline of their heads, fins and down their
backs, from there the outline blurred into phosphorescence, like torpedoes
of light leaving a 30 metre trail of stars in their wake. When I returned
with the camera, they had gone.
The deck floodlight I use to see the sail trim bought my constant companions
of the past few days,the petrels, a little closer - they must get confused
by the light, and come down onto the deck for a while.They are the size of a
starling, with pointy wings and a flight in some ways like a bat's. It is
how tame they are that is incredible - they won't go away until after you
turn the lights off, but as they flit around leaving little puffs of dust
from their feathers, you can pick them up with an open hand to help them get
to where they want to go - when they've had enough they just jump out of
your hand and back onto the deck. They smell like they've been living in
somebody's loft, all sort of fusty, but I think they are my favourite birds,
and quite how such a small creature stays so dry it's dusty out here and
survives some of the weather that happens is nothing short of a miracle.
All these many special moments you get on any ocean crossing, all of the
emotions you feel and the simplicity of the way of life out here are bought
sharply into focus for me as we get within a stones throw of land and the
end of the race. In some ways I feel could go on forever, or at least cross
the finishing line and turn straight for home to see the family, but that
wouldn't be fair on my Dad who is waiting there for me. You can see why
Bernard Moittessier did what he did during the Golden Globe - I am a long
way from being made of the same stuff as him, and I have commitments ashore
that are absolutely of my own choosing, and it will be good to get back to
them refreshed and feeling alive once again. We have some very pressing
issues at home and I need to get back to them as Kim is firefighting on her
own at the moment.
Cerne Abbas School in Dorset, where my two small boys go, have been avidly
following the race. It takes Kim up to an hour now to do the school run as
other parents and the staff all want a first hand account of the days
happenings. It's great that they are so keen - they have wallcharts and
everything, and I'm sure and I hope that many other schools are following
the race too. (If not why not!) If nothing else I think that kids should be
taught that if they want badly enough and work hard enough anything is
possible. My careers teacher in Derbyshire thought that I should have been
designing washers in a washer factory somewhere I think, and a few years ago
I was mocked for buying Yachting World; "Why do you want to buy that,
everything in there is so out of reach". They were both wrong. Very wrong.
Yesterday I had a few good meals - the last half dozen eggs, a tin of baked
beans and pita breads followed by an industrial tin of rice pudding have
really got me sorted out. I feel 110% today, and am looking forward to a
fast finish into Boston!
Press Date 27 May. - Steve's blog Number 15. - The end is near!.
As I sit here at the chart table holding on with anything I have that is
capable of holding on we are once again, pounding upwind in 26 to 30 knots.
It is strange this time, however, this is the last blog, today is my last
day at sea for a bit, and it all feels quite odd. I can't credit the fact
that I will be tied up tonight after all the work and effort everyone put in
it is over in a flash or that's how it feels.
I was nearly out here longer than anticipated, as I looked out of the window
whilst downloading some weather, I saw a lobster pot buoy about four feet
across and an additional danbouy with a radar reflector on top attached to
it - we had missed them by about 15 feet! The keels on these boats are
specially shaped to allow you to catch any lines, nets or similar in the
water, and a pot buoy that size round the keel would stop you - even at 11.5
knots. The small ones in the UK usually give you a whizzing sound as the
rope runs around the keel, and then "bump, bump" down the side of the boat
and you're off again. This one would have to be cut I expect - not good.
Anyway, who fishes for lobster out here - 150 miles from land in 200 odd
metres of water - the lobster would get the bends on the way up from that
depth and then die of old age during the boat trip in!
I don't have that much else to report today, but I do want to say a couple
of "thankyous" - firstly to the boat. It may not be new, but we have had
some really great sailing, everything has worked and I haven't opened the
toolbox once - testament to the way the boat was originally built and to
Josh, Mark and Jason my eldest son for getting it ready in double quick
time. (New sails and rigging for the Vendee Required though I think, they
were a bit of a worry at times!)
Finally I need to thank my wife Kim, without whom any of this would be
either possible or worthwhile. It is rare indeed to find someone who is
selflless enough to put their own dreams on hold and support someone else's,
and this project and I have made her life very very hard at times. I am
fortunate and thankful indeed to be married to her, and love her from the
bottom of my heart (even though she drives me mad sometimes!)
I may see some of you who have been reading this in Boston for a beer,
everyone else, come and say hello if you see the boat around and about back
in the UK- the kettle's always on.
Press Date 28 May 08. - Artemis website comment on Steve's achievement.
Steve White onboard Spirit of Weymouth crossed the Boston finish line of The Artemis Transat at 04:04:54 GMT (midnight local time) in 9th place in a time of 16 days, 15 hours, 4 minutes and 54 seconds, completing the IMOCA results table. Nine of the 13 starters have completed the 2,982-mile solo course and White’s achievement stands out for his sheer determination and obvious passion for the sport.
Steve White finishes 9th in The Artemis Transat onboard Spirit of Weymouth
© Matt Dickens/onEdition/The Artemis Transat
Thirty-six year-old Steve White from Dorchester (UK) is a tribute to the fact that anybody can achieve their dream, provided they are bold enough. He and his wife laid every penny they own on the line, re-mortgaged their house to purchase the boat (Josh Hall’s ex-Gartmore) so he can follow his dream of sailing non-stop around the world in the up and coming Vendée Globe. He is proof that sailing is accessible to anybody with the skills, the dedication and a dream to keep alive.
During his race, White wrote many emails back to shore detailing the high and lows of his experiences: “I thought we had done a good job avoiding the worst flashes [lightening], but inevitably
all around there was one with my name on it - I couldn't get out of the way.
There was sheet and then forked lightening very, very close to the boat, and
you could smell it…” (go to the Boat Logs section in the Race Console to read in full). As did all the other skippers who went before him, White went through storms, windless zones, freezing cold and embraced it all, relishing the opportunity to race his older generation boat against the professional sailors on the IMOCA circuit to achieve his ambition of finishing The Artemis Transat and is now one stop closer to his long-held dream of competing in the solo Vendée Globe.