February 2009 Vendee Globe Reports
1 February - Newswire reports - Michel Desjoyeaux wins Vendee Globe.
Sailing more than 28,303 miles, averaging around 13.2 knots, French solo skipper Michel Desjoyeaux has shattered the Vendee Globe race record today by 3 days 7 hours and 39 seconds on his way to becoming the first skipper ever to win the solo non stop around the world race twice. The course is effectively 1150 miles longer than in 2004.
Steve White, in ninth place, is now 390 miles off the Brasilian coast still making a steady nine knots, passing the latitude of Rio. Strategically, like others in these realms of the fleet, White is not getting the level of weather information to judge his best options, to plot the arrival of fronts and so he is keeping well offshore.
3 February - Blog 24 - Warm tranquility and thoughts of home.
If you went on holiday and the weather was like it has been here over the past few days you would not be disappointed - it has been glorious. The water is just the right temperature for bathing babies, the sun is very strong and right overhead at midday, and the breeze is warm and pleasant at night when you go out to look at the stars. I think this must be where the baby flying fish live - I have not seen any that are bigger than half grown but thre are hundreds of them. Birds are a different matter - just one for a hours only as he flew just ahead of the boat looking for flying fish with his beady eye; he was greeny brown with a pointy tail and beak like a needle and about three quaters the size of a gannett. Since then, nothing, no visible company at all.
I have been busy however. The generator needed fiddling with again because as the water and hence the batteries get warmer the way they charge changes, and if you're not careful the generator is overcharging like mad and my nice rectangular batteries are about to become cooked into shapes like egg boxes! A blocked fuel filter was complicating the process of setting it up; I must have had a really dirty fill of fuel from somwhere, but it's OK now. I changed generator engine oil and stopped the water leak from the engine exhaust, so we are a bit drier downstairs now which is a good thing.
It is difficult to sleep at the moment - you can only really turn in a couple of hours after dark as it has just about cooled off enough by then, and as all the hatches are open I get a bit of breeze over the top of my bunk coming through the companionway bulkhead hatch from the back of the boat. It is not easy to eat normally either - I have my porridge and a cup of tea just after first light when it's still cool, but I am really short of cold things to eat - it's hard to summon up the enthusiasm for two hundred and fifty grams of pasta and sauce when it's this hot! However, I'm hardly burning three thousand calories a day or whatever it's supposed to be just moving around and keeping warm like you do in the Southern Ocean!
It is strange to think about my position in the race at the moment. I have to be careful what I say as I haven't finished yet, but if you'd have told me before the start that I'd be in eigth place at any point I'd have said it you were mad - it is more than ten places better than my wildest dreams! I think it is a reflection on how strong and simple the boat is as much as anything though. It is really sad about Bilou after he came to within a stones throw of the finish and had to stop, but he did the right thing and he'll be back in 2012 I'm sure.
Personally I don't feel any different after my adventures but I am looking forward to getting home now and wearing my slippers by the fire, walking the dogs, bike riding with the kids, and getting set up for the future with renewed energy after my adventures, it's just that the South Atlantic doesn't want to release us without a fight.........still, four days to the North East Trades, steady sailing and the last ocean to cross! Keep your fingers crossed for an easy crossing of the Doldrums for us.
4 February - Newswire reports - Pleasant but pedestrian progress.
Steve White may be in some of the most pleasant sailing conditions of the race, a complete counterpoint to the weather at his home in England, but he is certainly feeling that underlying frustration, the inevitable let down after a first venture into the Big South, when 11-12 knots in baking sunshine on Toe in the Water, feels not only pedestrian but - without the challenge of a rival within 500 miles - positively monotonous.
6 February - Blog 25 - Flying fish and fishermen.
This bit of the ocean is to all appearances as close to a desert as I would ever have thought it was possible to get. I don't think I have ever sailed so far or for so long with the same sails up. The days are the same; the sunrises and sunsets are seemingly instant - they are very brightly coloured but only ever for a very few minutes; the afternoon squall clouds disappear after sundown to be replaced with the most staggering display from the stars which stretch uninterupted from a finger above the horizon in all directions, the Milky Way visible clearly and the occasional shooting star topping off a spectacle that you can enjoy for hours whilst sitting in the cockpit in the warm, steady nightime breeze, even in the early hours. When the sun comes up the heat is switched back on instantly and it becomes an oven on deck and a sweatbox downstairs,making it difficult to eat or sleep. Then, after lunch the squalls develop and keep you occupied until dark - and so passes each day.
Other than the bird I saw a few days ago there have been no others, but I awoke yesterday morning to find a great many calling cards all over the deck which are now burnt on by the sun! I obviously had some company during the night from someone who was flying above and to windward of the boat and probably looking for flying fish. As I emerged from downstairs after dark last night and stood up by the hatch I was hit in the chest by something. I looked down and it was a little flying fish about two inches long - if you bear in mind he must have been over two and a half metres above the water to clear the topsides of the boat as we were quite well heeled over, that was not a bad feat for a little creature! I threw launched him over the side and he spread his fins and flew a short way before dissappearing.
There is, I expect, a lot going on that I don't see - sometimes the water boils as something or things that eat flying fish corall them near the surface and create a mass flypast. It is interesting to watch a large number all fly at once, some fly until they are almost out of sight, perhaps quarter of a mile, and others not so far. I thought to start with that natural selection must favour those that fly furthest, but then if you think about it they are a long way away from what was chasing them that is true, but they plop back into the water and .......no mates! They are alone, which must be a bit disconcerting for a creature who's best chance is in a school. That would make an interesting study to occupy a lifetime for some bearded biologist, are long, short or average distance fliers most favoured by natural selection?
Talking of beards, I got rid of mine again yesterday, and in doing so looked in the mirror which is an unusual event for me either here or at home - I look like a real muppet as I am badly in need of a haircut!.It is curling behind my ears like some bad 1980's footballer and the top blows in my eyes too, something it hasn't been long enough to do for over ten years, but I am forbiden by Kim from doing another DIY haircut after the last one, or I would get rid of the lot - it is pretty hot under here, but not through brain activity! I am under strict instructions to wear a hat upon my arrival!
I have finally run out of gas,so the bodged in gas stove has been replaced by my old faithful alcohol stove which takes ages to boil or cook anything,but makes the place smell homely, somewhat like the meths burning Mamod traction engine I had as a boy that my boys now play with, so I am happy about that.
There are lots of fishermen around here too, all heading east away from Brazil and gabbling constantly on channel 16 on the VHF - if there was an emergency you'd never get a word in edgeways! Talking to Brian I think they are after tuna, which they catch with simple rods with a fixed line on the end that stick out of rod holders all down he sides of the boat. I have seen them often off the coast of Portugal, usually doing nothing, but I did see one once that had got lucky; as the ship lay a-hull they were pulling in big tuna one after another, some of them nearly four feet long! There are evidently enough of some sort of creature out here to keep a lot of fishermen busy anyway. Their boats are interesting - no AIS* even though some are quite large, and they are always appauling radar targets, often they have to be within four miles before my radar alarm goes off. The first one I saw was on a converging course with me - he showed up at under four miles on the radar on a collision course doing about ten knots and I couldn't see his port or starboard lights. I called him by VHF and he altered for me instantly but without answering, and as he passed about half a mile away down my port side I could see he had no navigation lights, only running lights, and after three miles I couldn't see his lights or see him properly on the radar and I wondered if he was smuggling something. There are loads of vessels to be bought from the Customs auction in Gibralter that have been confiscated for smuggling, there are two that I know of in Weymouth alone so it must be common, but we shall never know. Also, Santos is a place they warn you about because of piracy, so all in all I am glad to finally in the eleventh hour get the South East Trades this morning for the run up to the Equator and to be leaving Brazil behind me.
I am still battling with Michele Thomas in preparation for the glorious day when I make a fool of myself in two languages during my Radio Vacation with Andy from the Race Media Centre, but my deck speakers have blown up due to excessive Bob Marley (It keeps the whales away!), so now I have to learn downstairs as I boil - brilliant!! I wish I had kept my mouth shut! By the end of the trip I'll be fluent, but only once the ambient temperture reaches more than 45 degrees........
*AIS - Automatic Identification System - mandatory for all vessels over 300 tons but a brilliant idea for anyone going to sea in a vessel of any size, it transmits your name, callsign and course, speed and position plus cargo if you have one to any other similarly equipped vessel that is within VHF range - sometimes nearly forty miles for digital information. No longer when you are about to be squashed do you call "Big black ship on my bow that is about to run me down....!, it is now "Such and such a vessel in position so and so, course x, this is yacht on your bow...." they can't ignore you when called by name and if they do you know who they are; it has saved my bacon a few times as you also show up independantly of your radar target which may be poor for a yacht.
February 8 - Newswire reports - Toe in the Water back in the North.
Steve White crossed back into the Northern Hemisphere in the early hours of this morning on Toe in the Water as he continues with a comparatively straightforward Doldrums crossing.
He had a nominal slowdown last night making only two to three knots, a matter of two or three hours before he crossed the line, but White has mostly continued to return solid averages as he pushes on towards completing his first solo round the world race.
White, who was on the brink of losing his family house and his IMOCA Open 60 before a private backer rescued his dream of doing the Vendee Globe at the very last minute. The financial package provided was contingent on White publicizing Toe in the Water.
Toe in the Water is a British charity set up last year which utilizes the environment of competitive sailing as an attraction to motivate, rehabilitate and give back some enjoyment to injured servicmen and women working with the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Service in Surrey, England.
The charity works with Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force and seeks to inspire men and women who have sustained traumatic injuries to move on from their disability and be re-inspired by their potential to enjoy active and fulfilling lives, not least by taking part in competitive sailing.
In the manner that White has seized his Vendee Globe opportunity and continually delivered his race to the wider public in his typically upbeat, often humorous but totally down to earth style, he has been a great ambassador for the charity, proving what can be achieved with his subtle blend of gritty determination, good seamanship, and a healthy dollop of self effacing good spirits.
The British skipper was making good speeds northwards, with around 100-110 miles of Doldrums still to cross although this morning he seems to be making over 10 knots at times and is forecast to be seeing 10-15 knots of NE'ly breeze.
February 10 - Newswire reports - Planning the course to the finish.
Steve White, GBR, (Toe in the Water): " Everything is good, it is clocking round to the east at the moment which is good . I am at 70 degrees true, and doing between 350 degrees and North and so I am getting a nice little bit of a lift really. I am trying to shave the corner off a little bit but at the moment I am not quite sure what is going to happen over the next few days, but I'll just keep plugging away at this and see what develops. Everything is quite well at the moment."
"I am not going to catch him significantly and I suppose he will get going again. I am not completely clear on what is going to happen. It looks pretty complicated and what I am doing is downloading these forecasts from the Tropical Prediction Center in Florida which is more relevant to me and where I am at the moment, but they do go all go all way up to Ushant, but it does look a little bit of a mess at the moment.
I am sort of thinking that by the time I get up there that the worst of the lows will have gone through, and the high will have re-established itself over the Azores and I can do a sort of traditional rounding. I am not entirely sure about that, and I have a couple of days before I have to consider making any real decisions, at the moment I am getting some easting in, because it is an awful lot easier to bear away to go round the high if it pops up again than."
"Food? Oh, crikey....I've got stacks. Masses and masses of porridge, freeze dried I am down to rice dishes which I am not so keen on, I have loads curries left but I have eaten all my favourite ones, no tortellini left, a couple of pastas with tomato sauce which I like, dozens and dozens of pasta vesto, Isaac's favourite packet pasta, baked beans, squeezy tubes of apple and custard, cake and custard and loads of freeze dried puddings, so I am not going to starve. In fact I was having a day of fasting because I am hardly using any calories at all propping up the chart table, just sitting here getting fat really."
11 February - Blog 26 - The fishmonger's boat.
The boat regularly looks like a fishmongers at the moment - no matter how many times I get up in the night to throw flying fish back as they flail around on deck making a noise like small pnuematic drills and waking me up, in the morning there are always some that I haven't heard land who have not fared so well, which is quite sad. I took fifteen out of the boom bag yesterday, which is above head hight, so they must be reaching quite an altitude to get up there! I found them as I was putting a reef in yesterday - the first reef one since the Falklands, which is incredible I think; that would be like driving across America without changing gear! I was beginning to think I was getting weak for a second, then I realised that the mast winch had seized solid! It is really exposed to the salt up forward where it is, and when I eventually levered the drum off all of the grease had mixed with the salt and become like green concrete, baked dry in the heat and solid through lack of use. I had to do a quick bear away to level the boat off so I didn't loose any bits, then stripped and cleaned the bits in the sink with the washing up scrubby sponge and some fresh water (I can't spare the diesel, I am really low!), dried them off, gave them a quick squirt of WD 40 and grease and slapped it back together, good as new! By the time I had finished mucking about I didn't need the reef after all it turned out, but at least it was easier taking it out with a winch that actually now goes round freely.
The mysterious birds that had previously left calling cards on the deck came back and made a mess all over the sails this time, which I hope will wash off before I get in, but I did catch them in the act, and got some video too whilst dodging their missiles! They were boobys I think - like slim-line gannets but with bright blue beaks and blue around their eyes. They were hunting flying fish with some real zest, but not a great deal of luck; I didn't see them catch one, despite them going into some serious dives and watching for hours. They obviously do get lucky, the results are all over my nice white sails!
Now, as I am seriously into my Michele Thomas learn French course, spending a few hours a day on it sometimes. I am aware of actually how much time I spend trimming and watching the numbers - boat speed, wind speed, course and so on. There are constant small changes in the sea state and wind that require a trip up on deck to adjust sails and the pilot which make it difficult to concentrate properly on my schoolwork, but I am getting there slowly......
I can tell the race is nearly over, I have come to the end of the pre-bagged porridge and this morning I have started on the sacks! If Kim has an obsession it is only with plastic bags - any plastic bag anwhere with anything at all in it must be knotted, but not just an ordinairy knot, it must be so tight that it reaches the density of the centre of the sun, and consequently they take quite a time to get undone - my average boatspeed should go up now, because I don't have to undo them every morning and I have all that extra time to spend on keeping the boat going!
I have been trying to work out when I'll get in, and it seems to be dependant on the Azores High - I think I will be following Marc around the outside of it, and it looks at the moment, touch wood, that we should get around it without stopping, but the high and the waypoint I have imaginatively named "Where everyone else went" are still just under three days away, which is a long time in weather terms, particularly when things are as fickle as they have been, plus we will arrive there on Friday the thirteenth which could throw the whole thing into chaos, but I am hoping I will be in late on the 21st, or the 22nd which is more likely, but I am pulling out all the stops at the moment and we'll see.
17 February - Blog 27 - The brainless flying fish and spinnaker woes.
We are officially out of flying fish territory now, and the last occupants who had somewhat outstayed their welcome under the staysail deckbag have now been evicted! It is a bit of a relief actually; although they are a real triumph of the creature creation department, to be throwing them back many times per night when I should be sleeping is an activity that will not be missed. Even though the have mastery of two elements, someone forgot to install brains, which was a shame, but I reckon one had a crash helmet to protect what little brain it had - there is a small head shaped dent in the cockpit side which was not there before. At fourteen inches long for a big flying fish it is possible........
It is gradually getting cooler, and I have broken out socks and boots for the nightime, and for the first time today, during the day as well. It's nice that it is a bit cooler, we just need some wind to go with it now. At night all the stars look familiar again, and if I look behind me, almost due south, the star that flashes red, white and green is clearly visible a hands width above the horizon - if you don't believe me, find a dark place where there's no light pollution on a clear night and have a look, it is there flashing away!
I had a bit of a nightmare morning. After being up and down all night with fairly mild squalls, trimming to try to keep sailing deep to get north, (or that was how it started, with a course of twenty degrees, but before dawn my course was seventy degrees - straight back at the Azores again!) so I thought I'd get some weather and then gybe, but my e-mails had gone down; they would send but not recieve, which meant no weather information which would have been a real disaster. I had a ship coming straight at me at twenty knots who was not answering his VHF and I would not have shown up on his radar in the torrential rain, plus I was sitting waiting for a call from the press that just didnt happen. At that point I suddenly noticed we were going slow, and switched on the deck light to see my lovely new Toe in the Water spinnaker hanging against the windows having ripped from top to bottom. I think the rip stemmed from a small repair I had done in haste which may have washed off with all the rain but I didn't have time to inspect it, I just needed to get it down whilest I had all the bits. If you aren't quick about it they can go in the water, under the boat and round the keel or wrap around the rig, so I got it down and rapidly away below. Plus I couldn't gybe out of the way of the ship with that still up there, and he was by now at four miles with me only doing six knots. I called him again, luckily he answered, altered slightly and went round me. I haven't a clue what the bloke said, he was very foreign and sounded like he smoked a million fags a day, but at least he didn't squash me, so that was fine. Everything always happens at once!
I was upset about my spinnaker. I've blown a few up on this boat because I've had so many old ones, some came with the boat but the rest were donated by Dee and Alex. Normally you really know about it when they go; one minute you're barrelling along, then there's a bang and the boat pops up and you slow down, to the accompaniment of a noise like a roll of tissue paper rustling in the wind as the bits blow around like streamers. Now all I have left is an old Group 4 one left that Dee gave me. It's got to be nearly ten years old, and while it's not pretty it is built like a brick outhouse and will do the job - let's hope it's not a spinnaker finish or they won't know who I am!
With Dee safely in, we have, she promises, seen the last of her jokes. Some will say that mine were worse I'm sure, but they all gave us something to have a groan about! It is, however, pretty odd to have everyone else tied up whilst I'm still out here, but if the Azores Highs (multiple) stop messing about and let me through it won't be long and I'll be in too. I had a really strong feeling that I should have followed Marc Guillemot's track when I was at the point where I could have, but everything looked good for an easy crossing back then. Now I am older and wiser in the ways of the Azores High, the next time I shall listen to my little voices and never go near the Azores again. Ever. If the Vendee Globe was twice around then that would be fine so it's not the mileage, but pyschologically when you get near the finish, that and all it entails becomes the focus and you become ready to, and then really want to get in, and to to be messed around by the weather at the eleventh hour is always going to be hard. Give me a good honest low pressure any day.......
I've been thinking a lot about canting keels too, and the designs for the new boat. It's funny how you can throw a battery on any thirty year old JCB that has been sitting in a field and it will fire up and the bucket will go up and down without any trouble. Put that in a boat and it all seems to fall apart however, it should all work fine but never seems to....so soon hopefully I'll be on e-bay looking for a second hand digger to canibalise for my canting keel hydraulics!
February 22 - Newswire reports - White's frustrating angles.
Steve White is fighting the angles today as he beats upwind to try to make best time to the finish in Les Sables d'Olonne to secure eighth place in the Vendee Globe. White has 434 miles to sail this afternoon but is still slamming upwind into a nasty swell. This afternoon he reported that Toe in the Water is making steady progress but he is just frustrated by the contrary breezes and the poor upwind angles which his boat makes.
His is a vicious cycle at the moment.
Toe in the Water, a relatively older, wide boat with a fixed keel and sailplan more optimized for downwind sailing needs more breeze in order to sail to narrower angles to windward. But more wind means bigger seas and more crashing and bashing around.
"I am slamming away like I don't know what, here. It is just so frustrating. This boat must be just about the worst there is in the fleet for going upwind. Norbert's is a narrower boat with a canting keel and that would be preferable. In this wind I tack through anywhere around 100 to 105 degrees and below 15 knots that rises to 120 degrees and that really dictates where I am going. If I can get up the to the north of the latitude of Les Sables and the NE'lies hold it could be OK, but down in the south of the Bay it is a bit light and swirly."
"It is very frustrating because it seems like every time I tack the wind heads me." Said White this afternoon, 100 miles to the NW of Cape Finisterre, whilst still heading SE.
"I shall probably tack in a couple of hours and then see where that gets me. I am hoping the breeze will hold up. I am making 9.5 - 9.7 knots but I don't want to push too hard in these seas because I don't want to bring the rig down."
23 February - Blog 28 - The slow slog to the finish.
Since I added Flores in the Azores to the list of islands I have seen on my little tour progress has been pretty slow. Sam sent me an e-mail as she went through the Azores and said she was going well in thirty five knots of breeze, but why was there always an island in the way? It's true though, I've seen or had to avoid Madeira, the Canaries, the Kerguelens, Staten Island, Cape Horn which is an island, Fernando de Norohna and then the Azores - three months and not a continent to be seen, just about one island a week though!
I got another fishy visitor not long after leaving he Azores who was really unusual. He was obviously tuna family from the pyramidal ridges down his back behind his dorsal fin, but he was really thin like a garfish, and had a very long beak which was like a sailmakers needle at it's tip and pretty fine all the way down too, and about as long as my index finger and gently curving upwards. The whole fish was about a foot long. I suppose he used it for spearfishing like a mini marlin or something, curious anyway. Something else to look up when I get home - I took some photos.
I am really looking forwards togetting in now. I'm currently pounding down towards Cape Finisterre where it is always windier than everywhere else, and sure enugh I have just had twenty eight knots on the nose - not ideal with a broken inner forestay from which the staysail is currently flying, a repaired gooseneck and generally lots of other bits that have now done nearly twenty six thousand miles or whatever it is, and could do without being slammed about. Where the bottom of the boat is so flat, it slams like a tea tray and you do actually get a headache from the sudden stop that the boat comes to every few seconds and the bang that accompanies it.
I can't quite win though weatherwise, we have a good wind angle down here but a bad seastate for the boat at this point in the race, and if we tack to the north east, the breeze slowly dies as we approach the high, particularly at night, and then in light airs my tacking angles become huge - over one hundred and twenty degrees, so it's really frustratingly slow progress - a seven hundred mile dead beat to windward for the finish, who'd have though it!
The weather is definitely giving me a hard time, still, maybe it's because I need to learn more patience, but I could do with that lesson after the race! It is frustrating with the clan all gathered in Les Sable and me under four hundred miles away - in the South we'd have done that distance in just over a day, but here........it won't be until Thursday morning now I think....aaaaaargh! Being dead downwind of Les Sable I can smell the beer and pizzas, or maybe it's my imagination; not long now though, not long.
February 24 - Newswire reports - Dodging the ships.
Steve White, GBR, (Toe in the Water) had a close encounter with a cargo ship last night which he admits was a little too close for comfort as he sailed in busy shipping traffic off Cape Finisterre.
Steve White, GBR, (Toe in the Water): " I had a bit of a long night with a lot of ships around Finisterre, I had to call several of them to get them to alter course for me. So I am quite tired and nearly got run down as well. I came as close as I ever have in my entire life to getting run down. It was the closest I have ever been to a ship which was not at anchor I think. An under arm throw with a tennis ball and I could have put it on its deck."
"I called him up and he obviously had not seen me and it took him five minutes to respond, and then when he did respond I said 'what are you going to do?' and he cam back and said he was going to turn to starboard and come down your starboard side. I thought that was rather odd, cos if he had turned to port he would have gone under our stern which would have been a much better thing to have done, he did an alteration to starboard which was big but it was not big enough, and I got headed and it finished up with us bow to bow and an angle of about 90 degrees and I baled out."
"I dumped the traveller all the way down because there was about 30 knots of breeze because the boat would not bear away, and as I crouched down to see I could see he had turned as well I had no idea that a ship that size, 160 metres, could turn so quickly and the bow was blown around and I saw his nav lights change underneath the boom, then I pushed the buttons on the pilot to come back up again, we both turned into each other effectively. Anyway I missed him he came under my stern and I called him up and said: 'that was rather close wasn't' it?' and he went absolutely berserk, and I thought which bit of the rules of the road have I not understood whereby you are supposed to get out of the way and I call you and ask what you are going to do, you tell me and you still end up hitting me. But I am going to report him You can't let people get way with that."
"All the others I called there was no problems, decent alterations and kept clear. They will insist on crossing in front of your bow and then of course if you get headed ten degrees, then it looks like you are on another collision course. Most of them had enough sense to make a big enough alteration to get out of the way, but I was pretty uncomfortable for a while. I must admit. On a 12 mile range I reckon I had nearly 20 ships at one point."
"Now it is empty. I am blissfully alone. I have two ships at 12 miles I am going in towards Biscay and then up towards Ushant. Meantime I'm just going to get me head down and dry my feet out in my sleeping bag."
The British skipper emerged unscathed and is making fair speed across the Bay of Biscay now, trying to hike north in the contrary, Easterly winds as he makes for the finish line in Les Sables d'Olonne where he is now expected Thursday.
White is expected to stay on the same tack now up to about the latitude of Lorient, where the breeze is likely to bend to a more favourable northerly direction, but the weather files also suggest it will be lighter, so nothing about his final approach seems to be falling in his favour. Once again he voiced his frustration today, saying that every time he tacked the wind had changed to be more against him.
"It's like pulling teeth. I just want to get in." White said today.
"I suspect that the weather will continue to do what it has done all the way in, every time I tack it will head me. It will be dead easterly until I get over the continental shelf and then there should be a bit of north in it."
"Oh crikey I am ready to get in now. It has been liking pulling teeth. I thought getting through the Azores was bad enough, but now every time I get knocked and knocked and knocked and I think I am going to go now, and so I tack it knocks me again.
The sea state last night I actually think it is only the second time that I have been up on my hands and knees, because the sea state is such that I could not stand up."
His VMG remains consistent at around 6-8 knots, although he said today that with 30 knot winds off Finisterre the seas were as big and awkward as he could remember, only the second time he could recall not being able to stand up on the foredeck of his Open 60, and having to work on his hands and knees.
At 1430hrs this afternoon White had a direct distance of 267 miles to Les Sables, which in reality is closer to 330 miles with winds still mainly Easterly to 25 knots.
"I was right inside the shipping lanes at Finisterre, inside the traffic separation scheme.
It is showing tomorrow evening (Wed) but I have not looked at any weather yet, but tomorrow tea time unless something incredible happens."
February 25 - Newswire reports - Crikey - How did we get here?.
Steve White is due in to Les Sables d'Olonne on Thursday morning and after a battle with the Bay of Biscay's contrary easterly winds he is more than ready to complete his remarkable race and collect eighth place, outlasting many fancied, more famous skippers.
Eighth is beyond the wildest dreams of the grounded, unpretentious skipper from Dorchester in Dorset, England.
His race has drawn widespread praise from fellow skippers and his regular, often humorous communications from the engine have made him one of the most popular characters in this race.
As it did for the seven skippers who finished ahead of him in this remarkable Vendee Globe, the champagne will flow like water when British skipper Steve White crosses the finish line on Thursday morning to having scaled the highest peak in solo ocean racing only 12 years after he first took up sailing, but White, a father of four, will celebrate seriously with a few bottles of Theakston's Old Peculier and a home cooked vegetable stew. .
Brewed to a traditional recipe in Masham, North Yorkshire since 1890, the traditional English ale is much more in keeping with White's simple tastes and down to earth outlook than champagne.
Unendingly self-deprecating, he may give the impression of being slightly prone to adversity and the odd misadventure but they mask his talent as a solo skipper, his seamanship, planning and sheer dogged hard work.
He is determined to be back for the 2012 Vendee Globe and develop continuously until then.
His success is not just a triumph over fiscal adversity, sailing so close to the wind financially that when he arrived in October in Les Sables d'Olonne three weeks before the start not only did he not have the money to race, but he was on the verge of losing the family home and his Open 60.
Indeed it was only during that morning before he arrived at the Vendee port with the then Spirit of Weymouth that he got the news that a promised sponsorship had fallen through.
While he was doing the passage to Les Sables d'Olonne his wife Kim had to borrow enough money to get to London to get his children's passports.
But on the return train journey she was breaking the sad news to the kids that not only was the Vendee Globe project off, but they might end up living somewhere else, when she had the call that a private individual would support them in the name of the Toe in the Water injured service personnel's charity.
"It was a bit of an incredible day really, but we have always been positive. We have never really known brick walls stop us and just kept going and going. The voice at the end of the phone just told us to just get on and get the boat ready and he would take care of everything."
"I had tears in my eyes at the start and now I am already in a party mood, I can?t wait to see him back." Kim recalls
As soon as he had the promise of money he had to squeeze a three month re-fit into three weeks.
Even on the morning of the start, as Dee Caffari lead the fleet out on her immaculately prepared Aviva, Toe in the Water looked more like the aftermath of Boy Scout's jumble sale - stores and equipment piled improbably high on her decks - and White was almost at his wits end with his team stowing materials until the last seconds.
Software for his computers was loaded on the way to the start.
For all that his funding landed at the 11th hour and preparations last gasp were last gasp,
White has sailed a prudent, passionate race, along with Sam Davies the race's most natural communicators, relaying his sheer pleasure to be out there, living the dream he had fought for nearly 10 years to realise.
He trained as a jockey before he took to sailing, got into the sport with his friend Richard Heaton who needed someone with a towbar to get his plywood 17 foot Lysander to the water. Slightly typically White ended up driving home in his boxer shorts.
The pair taught themselves to sail in a dinghy, the 'Invincible' which a rudimentary sail which was simply a triangle cut from a caravan awning. Richard has been first on each of White's new boats and was an essential part of the shore crew in Les Sables d'Olonne back in November.
His father was an engineer with Rolls Royce aviation. He recalls that from a very young age, around four, Steve had a predilection for taking things to bits and putting them back together. And as he got older his mechanical and engineering skills graduated through lawn mowers, motor bike and cars.
Latterly he was a specialist car restorer, working with pre war, high value vintage Rolls Royce and Bentley cars, accomplished in every area from coachworks to fine tuning engines, before the sea infected his blood.
He transferred his skills to a local boatyard in Weymouth where he learned more about composite boatbuilding and repairs, before working for more than three years with Pete Goss where he worked on the ill fated Team Philips and other projects. From there he went to work with Chay Blyth's Challenge Business - alma mater for Mike Golding, Dee Caffari, Jonny Malbon, where he worked his way up from being crew to a training skipper. Over the four years he was there he did more than 24 trips to the Fastnet Rock and set the fastest time on the Plymouth to Boston Challenge Transat. His vegetarian food was left behind and he survived on potatoes and eggs for the trip.
White's fellow skippers from the Challenge Business days have always been fulsome in their praise, not only for White's seamanship skills and determination, but his ability to get an extra half knot from his boat in many circumstances.
A long night's discussion with Kim saw them decide Steve would pursue his solo racing career seriously. They drove to Plymouth and handed in his notice with Challenge Business and that afternoon arranged the charter of Mark Taylor's Open 50 Olympian Challenger, max-ing out a fistful of credit cards to make the payments and pay for his entry to the 2005 OSTAR, landing a small sponsor on the morning of the race.
The deadline was down to a matter of 15 minutes when he finally purchased the Open 60 from Josh Hall which has taken him around the world.
At 1145hrs on D-Day he had all but decided Hall's midday deadline was not going to be achievable, but a chance phone call from Shally Suri, a Nottingham chemist shop owner who had sailed as a Challenge crew with White as skipper, who agreed spontaneously to be guarantor to the required loan and just after midday he was confirmed as owner of his Vendee Globe Open 60.
Eighth place will be a just reward for White who has moved mountains to be in this race. Typical of his determination, he arrived in Paris in the summer for a Meteo France weather briefing for all the Vendee Globe skippers, and had so little money that when he spent his few Euros getting the train in to the wrong part of the City, he had to walk two and a half hours to the other side of Paris to get to the venue. He had already prepared himself to sleep rough in the adjacent park afterwards, before Brian Thompson offered him a floor in his hotel room and gave him a lift back to the airport.
February 26 - Newswire reports - Arrival and review.
Finally triumphing after a frustrating duel with the prolonged easterly headwinds in the Bay of Biscay, British solo skipper Steve White sailed his Open 60 Toe in the Water across the finish line at Les Sables d'Olonne's South Nouch mark this afternoon at 12 H 38 MN 55 SEC GMT to take a commendable eighth place in the Vendee Globe solo round the world race.
White averaged 10.78 knots on the water covering 28197 miles. He sailed the 24,840 theoretical miles at an average speed of 9.49 knots.
Tired but triumphant, 109 days 0 hours, 36 minutes and 55 seconds after leaving Les Sables d'Olonne on Sunday November 9th, White was greeted by his wife Kim, and his three sons Jason, 19, Isaac 9, and Euan 6. He is the fourth British skipper to complete the race. Of the 30 skippers who started from the Vendee town over three and a half months ago, 19 had to abandon.
Of the seven British skippers who started the race, three were forced to retire. As White finishes, British skippers have taken four of the top eight places, a level of success for overseas soloists which is unprecedented in the legendary non-stop solo round the world race which was first contested in 1989.
White's result is much more than he imagined when he set off in November. While others were in peak fitness and had up to three or four years of planning and training behind them White's last minute preparations had left him on the verge of exhaustion as he left for the start, surviving a first horrendous storm on adrenalin, his wits and considerable seamanship skills. He only started sailing 12 years ago before becoming a career sailor in 1999-2000 when he worked his way up from crew to become a training skipper for Chay Blyth's Challenge Business. Before starting the Vendee Globe he had completed three Transatlantic Races. With Challenge Business he sailed to the Fastnet Rock 25 times in four years.
Despite the pre-race handicaps of lack of funding and preparation time White's circumnavigation has been impressive since the first Bay of Biscay storm which immediately accounted for four boats. He has always pushed to his limits in all conditions, light moderate and strong winds, consistently re-affirming that he was out there to race hard and be competitive. That he outlasted many more fancied, highly seeded skippers is down to his prudence, seamanship, sailing skills, keeping on top of the regular maintenance as well as being able to deal with the one bigger issue which might have ended the race for other skippers - when his gooseneck broke in the Southern Ocean. His eleven year old Finot Conq designed boat completed its third circumnavigation. Previously Gartmore, which also completed the Around Alone as Emma Richards' Pindar, as Toe in the Water White also bettered Josh Hall's 2001 race time for the boat (111days 19hrs 48 minutes) by more than two days on a course which is made more than 1200 miles (or four to five days) longer due to the ice security gates.
White's engineering and electronic skills stood him in good stead. In every respect he is the true self-sufficient soloist, proving himself able to deal with the intricacies and possible frustrations of re-wiring and rebuilding his aged autopilots, regularly reporting back to Race HQ having spent hours under his chart table of Toe in the Water in the desolate Southern Ocean, stripping and replacing slender wires of the dimension of human hair to resuscitate his fickle pilots. He started his race by having to bring his very essential computer keyboard back to life. Were it not so potentially serious, there was almost a comedic moment when he reported that he had melted a generator hose and shorted out his battery box and had a fire which filled his boat with a mix of acrid burning black carbon smoke, and a steam and diesel fumes some three days into the race.
In the Pacific Ocean approaching Cape Horn he also dealt with the fiddly business of repairing his mainsail headboard cars, removing and replacing dozens of tiny ball bearings. But his biggest success was the complex and ingenious repair to his gooseneck - which joins the mast to the boom - which required creating a composite support from laminated battens, which was secured to the keel head by dyneema lashings which passed through holes he drilled in the deck and kept tensioned by a Spanish windlass. In reality his repairs were occasional but fairly regular but in between he proved himself extremely able to drive Toe in the Water hard and fast, several times in the Big South, White was the quickest in the fleet over 24 hours.
Along the way his humour was irrepressible, sometimes quintessentially English schoolboy - with his Crikey!, Cor! and 'I'm dying for a beer' - while his keen, often wry observations made his blogs both informative, and entertaining, always on the right side of self indulgence and always written with wide-eyed spontaneity. While others either ripped blithely through the Southern Ocean dealing with familiar territory or simply
struggled with it, White positively loved it and says that his sailing will never be the same. He remained patient and level headed throughout, well able to stay on top of his emotions, save perhaps Christmas Day when he missed his kids and was frustrated with not being able to push his boat hard enough.
His ambition at the start was to get round in one piece; short term it was to ride out the storm and finish his preparations, gradually building up his race pace. But at Cape Finisterre he was in 17th place, just less than 90 miles behind the leader and he simply kept a good steady pace, and sailed an astute course battling it out on the way down the Atlantic between compatriots Jonny Malbon and Dee Caffari. He passed the Cape Verde Islands in 16th place and was 19th at the Equator, as the newer boats slowly extended their lead.
He was simply unlucky to miss the window of opportunity in the Doldrums and lost 200 miles and is quick down the Brasilian coast. By the time they approach the first ice gate he within 62 miles of Arnaud Boissires and Dee Caffari and having a great race. He lost a little after the gate, and then compounded his losses slightly at the second gate when he failed to plot the new positions of the gate and had to double back.
By the Kerguelen Islands he was in 14th place and sailing a generally safe, intelligent course, occasionally battling with his capricious autopilots which cause him to wipe out many times and lose him many miles.
In some respects the Southern Pacific offered White some of the highs and lows. He was trapped by a high pressure system which let Caffari and Boissires gain more than 350 miles away from him in three days. Until then he certainly was driving hard with a belief he could catch them. But after that he hit is stride, lovingly describing the long surfs with his boat on song in the Pacific as some of the best sensations ever.
After rounding Cape Horn in ninth place, the Atlantic weather was both cruel and kind to White. Consistently sailing upwind virtually until the finish line in a boat which was never designed nor optimised for windward sailing, if he struggled for motivation he never let it be known and he continued to work hard with no other boat within 500 miles of him. He may have avoided the big low pressure systems in the South Atlantic, but he would have given his eye teeth to have ridden home on the heels of one in the North Atlantic this last frustrating week.
Since the Pacific White has been talking consistently and clearly about he plans and his desire to move on from this race, seeking a newer, faster boat and a budget which allows him to race on an equal footing. White's Vendee Globe has been not so much a Toe in the Water as one huge step in the right direction.
Steve White's Race:
9th November- The start of the race, but for Steve it was a late night: " I didn't get to bed until 2am because we were still fiddling around down here."
11th November: While several boats were seriously damaged on the first night and on the day after the start, Steve makes it through relatively unscathed with a cautious beginning and can celebrate his 36th birthday. 12th November: Steve talks about a small electrical fire, and a damaged hose on his generator filling his boat with a mix of diesel fumes and steam.
16th November Steve finds himself battling it out with two of his compatriots -Dee Caffari (Aviva) and Jonny Malbon (Artemis), but the newer boats will slowly extend their lead.
19th November: Steve begins to suffer from the heat 400 miles from the Equator, but in spite of autopilot worries can be pleased that everything is more or less working.
20th November: Steve hangs on to Dee, but just watches Mich Desj go by.
21st November: Steve slowed in the Doldrums and loses over 200 miles to the leaders in two days.
24th November: Steve crosses the Equator. Toasts Neptune with some wine Norbert Sedlacek gave him, but does not cover himself in porridge
28th - 29th November: Passing Trinidade Island, Toe in the Water is among the fastest in the fleet and claws back some miles on the leaders, although he doesn't realise it at the time.
1st December: Steve executes his short time penalty and is back in a battle with Jonny Malbon.
2nd December: Steve had never spent more than 22 consecutive days at sea before
7th December: Steve White discovers the southern ocean "I am a Southern Ocean 'virgin' yes, and I have been thinking a lot about that. And when you read what people write about being down here, about them being conservative and what sails they have had up I think 'wow that really is conservative, what are they doing?' and now I am down here it is unlike anywhere else I have ever been. The swell is relentless, driving swell which is very, very much in charge, and it does things to the boat handling if you slow down and it drives your boat speed up and up and up. You just have to keep a handle on it, because anything that does go wrong could go very, very wrong. Hence the reason I am not really getting into bed very much"
8th December : Toe in the Water passes the longitude of the cape of Good Hope and enters the Indian Ocean (18th skipper)
11th December : After some confusion over its position Steve passes the second Ice Gate. " I would like to say there was something technical but there wasn't I forgot to re-route it. What happened was I got the e-mail that said the ice gate had been moved and I registered it and then when it came to putting the ice gates on to the MaxSea from the sailing instructions I forgot it had been moved."
18-19th December: Due to pilot problems Toe in the Water is repeatedly wiped out and Steve loses precious miles.
24th December: Winds in excess of 50 knots. Gooseneck pin breaks, but has to wait to carry out repairs.
25th December: Phones home many times, has a tough time on Christmas Day missing his family.
26th December: Sailed 367 miles, the highest average in the fleet over the last day, despite a broken goose-neck.
29th December: 310 miles SW of South Island New Zealand, in 13th place Steve is now finding time to learn French from the popular audio lessons of Michel Thomas.
30th December: Steve starts preparing the repairs for his gooseneck fitting
1st January: Steve the first to enter 2009! But he is busy fixing his autopilots
5th January: Finally calmer conditions and good speeds. "Downstairs is a bit in chaos - it's quite like a student flat at the moment, I'm trying to dry out a load of things so there's clothing spread all over the place, bits of the gooseneck repair and I had some plumbing to do, but I'm gradually tidying up."
7th-9th January. Toe in the Water slowed in a Pacific high. Steve loses 350 miles in three days to Arnaud Boissires and Dee Caffari.
9th January After Riou and Le Cam are forced out of the race, Steve is up in ninth place. "It's incredible to be where I am position-wise, but it takes a bit of getting used to be here at the expense of so many other people who have gone out in various unfortunate ways. It's incredible though, if I had the money and entries were open I'd be paying now to secure my slot for next time."
12th January. After repairing his pilots, Steve can enjoy some excellent surfing, knowing nothing better than this sweet sensation.
16th January: While Dee, Brian and Arnaud shelter at Cape Horn, Steve White take advantage of the strong winds to the south of the low to achieve some of the best speeds in the fleet.
17th January: Headboard car problems as he approaches Cape Horn.
19th January Steve rounds Cape Horn.
20th January: Three miles off Island de los Estados) was being hailed on the VHF by a nearby cargo vessel and admitted he had no running backstay on. ' I am juggling a bit just now. can you call me back?..'
23rd January: After a couple of days of strong upwind conditions, Steve is now reaching up the coast of South America;
25th Januury: The old boat does not do well in the Atlantic climb. "I am absolutely hard on the wind. It is pretty painful stuff really. It doesn't seem like there is an end in sight. We are in that weather that the boat does not work very well. 16-22 knots upwind.
30th January: With the repeated upwind or light conditions off Brazil, Arnaud Boissies extends his lead as Steve approaches Rio staying well off shore.
4th February: Brilliant sunshine, but rather monotonous sailing and no rivals within 500 miles.
6th February: As Armel finishes in second place, Steve is about to enter the Doldrums.
8th February: Toe in the Water back in the north