Single-handed sailor Keith White, who sat off from Grand Cayman in late April, arrived in Dartmouth, England last week, becoming the first disabled person ever to sail non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean from the Cayman Islands to England.
The journey – taken in his one-of-a-kind, 44-foot Feeling 1350 yacht – took over eight weeks to complete, and along the way, Mr. White faced many challenges including fierce storms, frustrating windless days, equipment problems and even the loss of his main sail.
“I lost the main in a squall, just before a big storm,” Mr. White said. “Halfway through cooking lunch I heard a massive bang and a crash upstairs, and when I got to the top I’m in the middle of a squall … just ripped it to shreds entirely.”
He was forced to continue on using his jib alone, and while friends thought he might have to stop in the Azores, Mr. White was determined to continue to England without stopping.
“A lot of people wanted me to stop in the Azores, because they said ‘It’s too dangerous out there,” and I said, ‘No mate, just keep going,’” Mr. White said. “I carried on and got here, accomplished the mission.”
That show of determination is characteristic of Mr. White, who has completed several solo sailing trips after a road accident years ago left him without the use of his left arm.
In 2005, he became the first disabled person to sail around Great Britain solo, and in 2007, the first to sail across the Atlantic solo.
When he set off from his home on the Isle of Wight in October 2015, his plan was to take his yacht ‘Marathon’ on a nonstop circumnavigation of the world. However, the boat and other gear sustained damage in a disastrous storm in the Bay of Biscay, a mere two days into his journey, dashing his round-the-world plans. However, he continued on to the Caribbean where he decided to become the first disabled person to sail nonstop from across the Atlantic Ocean.
He hopes that in the future, he can find a sponsorship to enable him to complete the round-the-world trip. He also hopes that his trip will inspire more sailors to set off from Grand Cayman.
“I’m just hoping that Cayman Islands can exploit what I’ve done and get other people to do it and then you’ll get other yachtspeople coming in, trying to beat my challenge,” Mr. White said. “It could attract quite a [lot] of people out for an adventure.”
After a week of repairing Marathon in Dartmouth, Mr. White sailed to his home of Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, Sunday.