Keith White (yachtsman)

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Keith White
Born1947/1948 (age 70–71)[1]
Died(2019-01-17)January 17, 2019[2]
Known for
  • Disabled solo yachtsman
  • First solo disabled circumnavigation of UK and Ireland
  • First solo disabled Atlantic Ocean crossing, and return
  • Disabled global circumnavigation attempt (current)
  • Charity fundraiser

Keith White is a British yachtsman. In October 2015 he set out on a non-stop solo circumnavigation of the world in his yacht, the Marathon, in part to raise funds for charity. White, who is disabled, lost the use of his left arm in 1991 due to a road traffic accident.[3] A sailor since he was 16 years old,[4] he has achieved some significant firsts with his circumnavigation of the UK and Ireland, and his circuit of the Atlantic.[5]

Yachting achievements[edit]

Circumnavigation of UK and Ireland[edit]

The Marathon, moored on the DC pontoon in Dartmouth, Devon, in the afternoon of 24 October 2015, prior to White's departure for his solo circumnavigation
The Marathon leaving port in Dartmouth on 25 October 2015, with no fanfare, no fleet of spectator boats, motoring past Dartmouth Castle and about to make sail and head for the start of the circumnavigation

In 2005, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar,[6] White circumnavigated Great Britain and Ireland solo, travelling anticlockwise, against the prevailing winds.[7] His boat, the Nephele, a Beneteau First 325, encountered a severe storm 60 miles northwest of Arranmore[8] and 40 miles from Tory Island,[9] off the coast of Ireland, and was overwhelmed but remained afloat.[4]

The voyage started on 5 June 2005, from Gillingham, and the severe storm, force 11 on the Beaufort scale, caught him on 3 July 2005. His mayday call was relayed to the Malin Coastguard, and the rescue operation lasted 24 hours.[3] After rescue and treatment of injuries received,[10] White completed the circumnavigation on 22 July 2005.[11]

Guinness Book of World Records has declined to list White's feat, calling it too complex to stand as a record.[12]

Transatlantic voyage[edit]

With a new boat, the Rosiley,[13] a Hanse 400,[14] White completed a successful solo circuit from the UK to the US and back in 2007 and 2008.[11] The route took him from the UK via the Canary Islands, Florida, New York City, and Boston, and then back across the Atlantic to the UK. His yacht had no modifications for disability.[15]

Solo global circumnavigation attempt[edit]

White planned a nonstop solo circumnavigation for charity. In 2015 he prepared for his charity solo circumnavigation of the world by entering his yacht, the Marathon, a one-off Feeling 1350 yacht, built for the 1991 BOC Challenge[16] and veteran of two prior circumnavigations, in the Round the Island Race, with crew.[17] The purpose of this was to seek to find and remove any pre-circumnavigation technical problems.

The solo circumnavigation attempt started in October 2015. Marathon departed from Cowes on 23 October 2015, pausing in Dartmouth, Devon, on 24 October[18] before setting out to cross the notional circumnavigation start/finish line from Lizard lighthouse to Ushant. He left Dartmouth in the morning of 25 October 2015.[19]

Though the voyage was planned to be a nonstop solo circumnavigation (which, with the use of one arm, might have qualified as an around the world sailing record), White's shore team announced on 29 October 2015 that catastrophic gear failure meant it was essential to head for port in northern Spain to undertake repairs.[20] The voyage resumed on 8 November 2015 after a week of repairs in A Coruña.[21] A further serious gear failure necessitated a stop for repairs at Las Palmas on Gran Canaria on 22 November 2015,[22] leaving to resume the journey on 30 November 2015.[23]

White's 2015 voyage is to raise money for two charities, Save the Children, and a foundation to build a sailing replica of the Cutty Sark,[24] to be built on the Isle of Wight.[5] The voyage is estimated to take about ten months.[25]

On 23 December 2015 White's shore team announced the postponement of the challenge citing the unserviceability of both of his self steering mechanisms. White had set course for the Caribbean to make things safe, and announced his intention to return to Cowes to raise additional funding, refit the Marathon, and try again.[26]

Longest solo transatlantic attempt[edit]

Returning to the UK from the Cayman Islands, starting in April 2016, White has set himself the challenge of the longest disabled solo transatlantic leg.[27]

Analogous historical feats[edit]

Other disabled sailors have been involved in solo circumnavigations. Charl DeVilliers was a deaf round-the-world sailor;[28] Robert E. Case was deaf and circumnavigated; and Vinny Lauwers, is a paraplegic who won the 2001 Laureus Award in the disability category for sailing around the world solo, unassisted, and nonstop.[29] Gerry Hughes, a profoundly deaf Scottish teacher, sailed single-handed round the world "past all five capes".[30]


  1. ^ Khaleeli, Homa (31 August 2016), "'I didn't know whether I could sail with one hand'", The Guardian, retrieved 15 September 2016
  2. ^ Young, Kayla (21 January 2019), "Single-handed sailor Keith White dies", Cayman Compass, retrieved 22 January 2019
  3. ^ a b Guidera, Anita (28 June 2007). "Rescued yachtsman salutes his daring lifesavers". Irish Independent. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  4. ^ a b "Disabled sailor saved from storm". BBC Online. BBC News. 3 July 2005. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  5. ^ a b "Island yachtsman's replica challenge". Isle of Wight Radio. 21 June 2013. Archived from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  6. ^ "Disabled sailor to honour Nelson". BBC Online. BBC News. 6 June 2005. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  7. ^ Grealish, Amy (15 October 2015). "Henri Lloyd to support disabled yachtsman Keith White". Yachts and Yachting Online. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  8. ^ Flanagan, Nora (7 October 2008). "Irish Coast Guard award for Arranmore RNLI lifeboat crew". RNLI. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  9. ^ "Crew may be honoured for sea rescue". The Irish Times. 6 July 2005. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  10. ^ "Island's lifeboat crew to be honoured for rescue". Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  11. ^ a b Gough, Stuart (3 May 2013). "Here's the Thing". Cruising Outpost Magazine. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  12. ^ Tweddell, Louise (13 October 2005). "Record book snubs one-armed sailor (From This Is Local London)". This Is London. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  13. ^ "Yachtsman sailed solo across Atlantic with one arm". Daily Mirror. 4 June 2008. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  14. ^ "(section) Ocean Accolades" (pdf). Hanse. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  15. ^ "Disabled sailor back after ocean voyage". Portsmouth News. 2 June 2008. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  16. ^ "Keith White, il primo disabile a fare il giro del mondo in solitario non stop" (in Italian). 18 October 2015. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  17. ^ "J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race – Boat details – MARATHON – ISCRS Division 5A". Island Sailing Club. 2015. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  18. ^ Megson, Julian. "First Night at Sea". Single Handed Yachting. 24 October 2015. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  19. ^ Megson, Julian (25 October 2015). "Heading For The Line". Single Handed Yachting. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  20. ^ Megson, Julian (29 October 2015). "Keith White is Stopping Repairs". Single Handed Yachting. Retrieved 30 October 2015.
  21. ^ Megson, Julian (8 November 2015). "Disabled Yachtsman Keith White Resumes Round the World Voyage". Single Handed Yachting. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
  22. ^ Megson, Julian. "Progress At Last For Disabled Yachtsman Keith White". Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  23. ^ Megson, Julian. "Disabled Yachtsman Keith White Sets Sail from Las Palmas". Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  24. ^ Hodgetts, Laura (15 October 2015). "Disabled yachtsman to embark on round-the-world unassisted voyage – Practical Boat Owner". Practical Boat Owner. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  25. ^ Stocker, Theo (16 October 2015). "Disabled yachtsman aims to sail solo around the world". Yachting Monthly. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  26. ^ Megson, Julian (23 December 2015). "Disabled Yachtsman Keith White Postpones World Challenge". Single Handed Yachting. Retrieved 24 December 2015.
  27. ^ Jukam, Kelsey (7 April 2016). "Single-handed sailor to cruise from Cayman to UK". Cayman Compass. Retrieved 20 May 2016. “Out of the quest of sailing around the world, I thought, well, I’ve got to achieve something,” Mr. White said. “I’m already the first disabled person to sail across the Atlantic, so I might as well be the first disabled person to sail the longest stretch of the Atlantic non-stop, and that’s from the Cayman Islands all the way back to Britain.”
  28. ^ Laird, Grant, Jr. (September 10, 2006). "GENERAL: Meet World's First Deaf Around the World Solo Sailor, Charl deVilliers – DFW". Retrieved December 2, 2015.
  29. ^ "Vincent Lauwers (AUS) wins 2001 Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability Award". ISAF. International Sailing Federation. 25 May 2001. Retrieved December 2, 2015. Vincent Lauwers (AUS), who, in 2000 was nominated for the ISAF World Sailor of the Year Awards in recognition of his successful solo, nonstop unassisted circumnavigation a world first, won the disability category at the '2001 Laureus World Sports Award' Webb, Carolyn (27 December 1998). "If You See No Limit, The Sea's No Limit". The Sunday Age. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  30. ^ "Disability News: Gerry Hughes Becomes First Deaf Person to Sail Round the World". Able News. BBC News. Retrieved 4 December 2015. His solo-circumnavigation lasted eight months and covered more than 32,000 miles, during which time he endured a capsize and equipment problems.

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