Steve White, the ultimate journeyman sailor, today (26th February 2009) completed the ultimate journey, crossing the line to become the 8th finisher out of 30 competitors in the prestigious Vendée Globe, the solo, non-stop, round-the-world sailing race. He returned after 109 days alone at sea, to an incredible reception in Les Sables D’Olonne, France, with crowds as large as 50,000 people lining the harbour walls.
Many factors make his feat amazing: the fact that he had to re-mortgage his house some four times to fund his dream; the fact that he only gained enough sponsorship to actually be able to compete in the week before the start, back on 9th November 2008; and that of 30 starters 18 sailors failed to complete the race through a combination of injuries or damage to their boat.
The ever modest Steve (36, from Weymouth, Dorset) managed to take it all in his stride, enjoying the moment and waving at the huge crowds as his boat Toe in the Water was joined by a flotilla of around 200 boats of varying shapes and sizes. A large banner was draped over the harbour wall that read: ‘Thanks Steve. You made us dream.’ It summed up perfectly the affection that the locals have for him, and his family (wife Kim and children Jason (19), Eryn (16), Isaac (9) and Euan (6) adopting them as honorary French citizens.
White’s story has kept everyone enthralled, and when he left Les Sables back in November he said, “I will finish, and I won’t come last”. With three sailors still behind him, he certainly kept his word.
Today Steve said, “I am just so amazed to finally be here. It’s everything I dreamt it would be and more. I cannot thank my family, friends, sponsors and the people of France enough. Thank you France for looking after my family while I was away, I don’t know what the French word for ‘humbled’ is, but that is how your welcome and support have made me feel.”
As for the future, Steve’s plans are fixed;
I’ll be back in 2012 to compete again, and then in 2016. I’ll have a new boat and I’d really quite like to win. He added, If any of you have ever had even a small dream about competing in the Vendee Globe, I urge you to do it. It will exceed all your dreams, it is the best sporting event in the world and I don’t think there can be a feeling like this anywhere else.
Steve’s boat is named Toe in the Water after the charity that promotes the rehabilitation of injured servicemen through competitive sailing. This came about due to a last minute donation from a consortium of anonymous donors who provided White the shortfall in money required to compete, but asked that he rename the boat and give any publicity to the charity..
Members of the charity were present at both the start and finish of the race, and two injured soldiers, Andy Newell and Chris Herbert, today boarded Toe in the Water for the emotional journey into the port.
Andy, a patron for the charity said;
We are so proud that someone as committed and inspiring as Steve, has carried our name and our flag around the world. His achievement is just epic, and the spirit of adventure in which he did it sums up perfectly the principles of Toe in the Water.