Steve White plans to break the solo 'wrong way' record this winter - and may have competition

It’s great news that Steve White is planning to go out this winter and break the ‘wrong way’ non-stop round the world record.

This is one tough record, and not just because it’s such a relentless upwind battering across the Southern Ocean, but because the last man to set it, the charming Jean-Luc Van Den Heede, managed to shave it back to an impressive 122 days in his 85ft custom-built Adrien.

Steve would like to do it in the Russian Volvo 70, built for the last VOR race and which is for sale in Lymington. It was designed by Rob Humphreys and built at Green Marine and is Steve’s choice because it is believed to be the most strongly built of that generation.

Why a Volvo 70? Because Steve doesn’t think his Open 60 Toe in the Water, in which he did such a heroic Vendée Globe race last year, is necessarily quick enough to break the record. I’d agree.

Let’s just go back to that 122 days that ‘VDH’ set round the world in 2004. Steve finished the Vendée Globe, downwind for half the circumnavigation, in 109 days. Based on that time there’s almost no hope of Steve bettering the record in the same boat going the other direction.

The biggest problem for now though is, as is so often the case, money. Steve estimates the budget for buying the boat, preparing it, support and sponsor activation is £1.4 million. That’s a lot to find in time to be ready to leave in late October or November.

And Steve is not the only person hoping to find the money to break that record this coming season. Philippe Monnet, who had the record in 2000 when he sailed an Open 60 round in 151 days bought Ellen MacArthur’s round the world trimaran B&Q from Oman Sail earlier this year, with a view to doing the Route du Rhum this November and then having a go at the ‘wrong way’ record.

However, I note that he’s not on the Route du Rhum list of entrants as yet, so I assume that he, too, is still short of sponsorship.

If he does get a backer this would be the first time anyone has attempted the westabout record in a multihull. Monnet’s chances must be reckoned on. He is a tough-as-nails sailor and the boat, which is being modified in conjunction with designer Nigel Irens, has already proven to be very durable round the world.

And Monnet’s not the only other hoping to break this record. Fellow French solo sailor Anne Liardet has also long had it in her sights. She told me about her plans last year – she had a boat in mind that I can’t for the life of me remember right now – but, at that stage, no sponsor.

So it’s possible that this elite record, which has been broken only four times since Chay Blyth first set it 40 years ago, could turn into a race this winter.

The solo non-stop westabout record

1971 – Chay Blyth, British Steel (59ft Robert Clark-designed cutter, steel), 293 days. Average speed: 3.85 knots

1982 – David Cowper, Ocean Bound (41ft Sparkman & Stephens cutter), 221 days. Average speed: 3.91 knots

1994 – Mike Golding, Group 4 (67ft steel Challenge cutter, David Thomas design), 167 days. Average speed: 5.61 knots

2000 – Philippe Monnet, UUNet (Philippe Briand design Open 60), 151 days. Average speed: 5.97 knots

2000 – Jean-Luc Van Den Heede, Adrien (85ft Giles Vaton-designed aluminium cutter), 122 days. Average speed: 7.43 knots

(First woman non-stop: 2006 – Dee Caffari, Aviva, 72ft steel Challenge cutter, Rob Humphreys design, 178 days. Average speed: 5.09 knots.)