Keith White, a disabled sailor with the use of only one arm, is setting off from Cowes on a solo non-stop circumnavigation attempt next week
Keith White is aiming to enter the record books as the first physically disabled person to sail non-stop and single-handed around the world. After losing the use of one arm in a motorway accident in 1991, he was the first disabled person to sail solo around the UK in 2005 and across the Atlantic in 2007. A solo circumnavigation will, he says, ‘complete the hattrick’. The challenge issure to test the limit of his own mental and physical capability.
Currently berthed at Cowes Yacht Haven, he plans to set off next week, and hopes to be back in eight or nine months’ time. He is aiming to average 1,000 miles a week, and will take a southerly route around the great capes, although he plans to sail further north between the capes for milder weather. ‘I’m not racing, and I’d rather be safe and comfortable for the sake of a few days,’ he said.
Keith’s boat, Marathon, a Feeling 1350, is only partly modified to accommodate Keith’s physical disability. Built for the BOC race in 1991, it has already been around the world twice. Weighing 20 tonnes, with a 9ft draft and 4.5 tonnes of lead in the keel, as well as two watertight bulkheads, it should be up to the task. Marathon is currently at Cowes Yacht Haven, where Cowes Town Waterfront Trust has donated a berth to help Keith realise his goal. Weather permitting, Keith will leave Cowes to head towards the Azores on 19 or 20 October.
The journey is estimated to take 10 months, during which time Keith will sail alone, completely isolated from the outside world.
As well as testing his own endurance, Keith is aiming to raise £15,000 for two good causes, Save The Children, and a foundation to build a replica of the Cutty Sark for under privileged children, which is a passion project for Keith. The project is self-funded, although Keith has been sponsored by Henri-Lloyd for his foul weather gear, by Cowes Yacht Haven for his pre-departure berth, and by North Sails / Sailcare in Cowes for the preparation of his sails.
‘I’ve been putting all my efforts into preparing for this challenge since 2008. I’m going to be realising a big dream, especially if I can fundraise a significant amount for my chosen charities. I think the biggest challenge is going to come sailing around the South African coast, where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. The bottom of South America is also known to be unpredictable.’
Keith’s children will be at home supporting him:
‘They’re nervous about me going, but they want me to live my dreams, so they support me in this, just as my late wife did for my Atlantic crossing. They’ll be glad when I’m back though.’
Keith isn’t afraid of the amount of time he will be spending alone on his boat. He added:
‘It sounds strange, but I’m looking forward to it. Sailing alone is he only time I ever get to read a book! I’m itching to get going now and I’m extremely grateful to Cowes Town Waterfront Trust for helping by donating a berthing space.’
Jon Pridham, managing director at Cowes Yacht Haven, said:
‘When we heard about Keith’s attempt to sail around the world unassisted, non-stop, we had to get involved. This is a huge feat even for a physically able sailor, but Keith also has to work around his disability. His attitude is a real inspiration.’
For more information about Keith White’s round the world challenge, visit his website http://singlehandedyachting.com/.