Steve White on haircuts, albatross, missing family and sailing as a way of life in France

Back on dry land after 109 days alone at sea, British sailor Steve White has been reflecting on his adventure in the Vendee Globe non-stop, solo round-the-world race. He came back eighth – one of four Brits in the top 8 finishers – to an incredible reception in Les Sables D’Olonne, France, with crowds as large as 50,000 lining the harbour walls.

Steve re-mortgaged his house four times to fund his dream. He only gained enough sponsorship to be able to compete the week before the start on 9th November last year.

The ever modest Steve, 36, from Weymouth, Dorset, took it all in his stride, enjoying the finish waving at the huge crowds as his boat, Toe in the Water, was joined by a flotilla of around 200 boats. A large banner draped over the harbour wall read: ‘Thanks Steve. You made us dream.’ It summed up perfectly the affection the locals have for him, and his family (wife Kim son Jason (19), Eryn (16), Isaac (9) and Euan (6) adopting them as honorary French citizens. Steve’s story has kept everyone enthralled. When he left Les Sables back in November he said, “I will finish, and I won’t come last.”

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.
Here are some quotes from Steve yesterday:

On loving France and Les Sables d’Olonne:
“Sailing is a way of life here, and it doesn’t seem to be like that in England and that’s a shame, and it has been overlooked in the media which is a shame, it’s not like that over here, I’m not seeking to be famous or anything like that, but to have support like this, and support with the boat, it’s something we don’t get in England, which is a shame.”

On the camaraderie and mutual support among the Brit-Pack (of British skippers on the course:
“We’ve had jokes from Dee, we’ve had a bit of technical support and commiseration over mechanics with Brian, Sam’s just full of joy during the race, she makes it very enjoyable.”

On encounters with the Albatross:
“Yes, there’ something very special about albatrosses, I know I wrote about them a lot, it epitomizes the south. You are there in three layers of clothing, clinging on to your boat and they are just soaring along gracefully.”

On getting a haircut?
“I’ve done it already, but I messed it up, I had one go but it didn’t work (haircut). And what had he been shaving with since the Ecover hand soap ran out and Kim forbid him to use cooking oil? ” I stoppod using the cooking oil because I got too much stick from Kim and I used some disgusting hand soap which has been bad for my skin.”

What is he looking forward to now?
“I think just a bit of time to catch up with people who’ve come to see me, a lot of people here, people I need to talk to, I want to eat something and not have to wash up after it I washed my porridge plate for over one hundred days and I’m sick of doing it.”

On being in touch with family:
“I phoned Kim at least once, usually twice a day, and if I was getting really excited three times a day. We’re still running a business, and I played a small part in that while I was away, but otherwise mainly it’s family oriented, how are the kids, what’s going on, how’s school, how are the animals, all the things that happen at home, you need to hear about it, talk about it.”

For more information on Steve White, visit