In 2016, Steve White will attempt to be the fastest yachtsman to sail non-stop and single-handed around the world the wrong way – Westabout – against the prevailing winds and currents in the Southern Ocean, which is one of the harshest and most remote environments on earth.

This remarkable record, originally set by Sir Chay Blyth in 1970 / 71, and described then by The Times as the “Impossible Voyage”, is still considered to be the toughest challenge in sailing. Only five people have held the record, a number which becomes more significant when compared against the twelve people who have walked on the moon.

The current record, held by Frenchman Jean Luc Van Den Heede, was set in March 2004 when the Frenchman completed the theoretical distance of 22,000 miles in 122 days, 14 hours and 4 minutes.


“It’s wonderful that Steve is planning to attempt what many regard as the ultimate sailing challenge.  Hundreds have completed the voyage following the classic Eastabout route but doing this in reverse is a quantum leap removed, which is why only five people have tried it.”

Photo: Sir Chay Blyth aboard ‘British Steel’ sailing the first ever solo Westabout circumnavigation.


The attempt will begin when Steve crosses the classic “Lizard / Ushant” start line. This line between The Lizard in Cornwall and Ushant, the extreme North West tip of Brittany, France, is the starting point for trans-Atlantic and round the world records. From there, Steve will travel across the entrance to the Bay of Biscay, down the North Atlantic past the Canaries and Cape Verde’s, through the Doldrums and on to the Equator.

From there, down through the South Atlantic in the Trade Winds to the first mark of the course, at the extreme southern end of South America, Cape Horn. This will mark Steve’s entrance into the Southern Ocean at 53 degrees South – the “Furious Fifties”, and the beginning of ten thousand miles of upwind sailing in the most hostile ocean on the planet. In the Southern Ocean it will be a case of preserving the boat and his personal safety amongst the desolate wastes and icebergs.

After a lap of Antarctica, leaving Australia to starboard, Steve will climb up out of the Southern Ocean turning right at The Cape of Good Hope into the South Atlantic, where he should gradually thaw out.

After retracing his steps through first the South and then the North Atlantic, Steve should re-cross that mythical Lizard – Ushant line, in a time of less than 122 days, 14 hours and 4 minutes!


“I’m under no illusion about how tough it is. To put it in perspective, only five people have completed this, and that’s seven less people than have walked on the moon”

Photo: Steve White aboard his Volvo 70 and challenger for the Westabout Solo world record.


The boat Steve has chosen to use for the Westabout Solo World Record will be a Volvo Open 70. This class of boat is at the cutting edge of technology, and currently holds the record for the fastest 24 hour run at 596.6 miles; an average speed of 24.4 knots, and a top speed of 39 knots. However, these records were achieved with a full crew of ten professional sailors. Steve will be alone on the boat, and will not have any powered systems to help him.

The boat has a mast height of 31.5 metres and weighs 14 tons – nearly 8 tons of which (the same weight as an entire Open 60!) is the keel, which reaches 4.5 metres below the water, and has a lead “bomb” on the bottom. The boat has a canting keel, which is how it generates its tremendous power and speed.