Dee Caffari has done it, now Steve White is setting out to do it too.
He's going to sail solo, round the world, non-stop and unassisted, AND the 'wrong way', AND break the current record.
The 'wrong way'? It just means that the world's wind in the Southern Ocean, where one must venture to round the globe without stopping, are all westerlies, so the logical way to go is to run before the wind, travelling ever to the east. Those who either have masochistic tendencies, are bored with their past circumnavigations or who just have something to prove to themselves, occasionally do it the other way.
Now the 37-year-old father of four, who has become arguably one of the world's greatest long distance sailors with his competitive sailing, finishing eighth in the last Vendee Globe solo round the world race, is bent on that most grueling solo journey of all, against the wind and the current, travelling west.
Steve didn't even sail as a child, and has garnered much praise for his unaided meteoric rise as a solo sailor. He started out, amazingly enough, as a jockey, then moved on to restoring classic cars. Then he worked in a small boatyard, and developed an ambition to compete in the big ocean races. With no backing, he was obliged to mortgage his house no less than three times to further his ambitions.
His intended 22,000-mile circumnavigation will have Steve single-handedly sailing a Volvo Open 70, a state of the art 70 foot long monohull which would usually be crewed by ten people. These boats are at the cutting edge of modern technology, and currently hold the record for the fastest 24 hour run at 596.6 miles at an average speed of 24.4 knots, topping out at 39 knots! The boat is made from carbon fibre, has a canting keel and was purpose designed for downwind sailing. It seems a great challenge even to sail it solo, and upwind, and he'll be doing it for many months.
The Ocean 70 - normally sailed by 10 crew - .. .
The current 'westabout' solo round-the-world record was set in 2004. It is held by Frenchman Jean Luc Van Den Heede who made it in 122 days, 14 hours and four minutes. White, who acknowledges his is 'obsessive' about the projects that he embarks on, will be trying to break that record.
Steve will sail across the historic Ushant – Lizard start line, then down to Cape Horn before turning right underneath it and into the Southern Ocean, where he will spend up to sixty days battling into the wind and against the current in some of the harshest conditions on the planet before turning right again one last time below the Cape of Good Hope, to head North and home to the finish line.
Due to the extreme nature of this record, only five sailors have made this attempt in the past forty years, including Dee. Sailing legend Sir Chay Blyth was the first to set the record onboard 'British Steel', in what was referred to by The Times in 1970 as the 'Impossible Voyage'.
Interviewed by CNN earlier this month, he described the coming voyage as 'like running up a downhill escalator, only much wetter.'
Follow Steve's record attempt over the next year at his website?nid=74535