While sailing through busy shipping traffic Brit Steve White has a close encounter

Steve White (Toe in the Water) – the last Brit to cross the Vendée Globe finish line – had a close encounter with a cargo ship in busy shipping traffic off Cape Finisterre last night, which he admitted was a little too close for comfort.

The British skipper emerged unscathed and is making good speed across the Bay of Biscay this morning, heading for Les Sables d’Olonne where he is now expected tomorrow (26 February).

White is expected to stay on the same tack now up to about the latitude of Lorient, where the breeze is likely to bend to a more favourable northerly direction, but the weather files also suggest it will be lighter, so nothing about his final approach seems to be falling in his favour. He voiced his frustration today: “It’s like pulling teeth. I just want to get in.”

His VMG remains consistent at around 6-8 knots, although he said that with 30 knot winds off Finisterre the seas were as big and awkward as he could remember. It was only the second time he could recall not being able to stand up on the foredeck of his Open 60, and having to work on his hands and knees.

Conditions remain rough for Raphaël Dinelli (Fondation Ocean Vital), who is having to battle upwind in 25-30 knot trade winds and heavy seas. He will be heeled over and shaken about for the next four or five days.

Conditions are very different for Norbert Sedlacek, AUT, (Nauticsport Kapsch) at the rear of the fleet. Unfortunately for the Austrian skipper, the Doldrums are stretching out as he climbs towards the Equator.

Steve White:”I had a bit of a long night with a lot of ships around Finisterre, I had to call several of them to get them to alter course for me. So I am quite tired and nearly got run down as well. I came as close as I ever to having my entire life get run down. It was the closest I have ever been to a ship, which was not at anchor I think. An under arm throw with a tennis ball and I could have put it on its deck.”

“I called him up and he obviously had not seen me and it took him five minutes to respond, and then when he did respond I said ‘what are you going to do?’ and he came back and said he was going to turn to starboard and come down your starboard side. I thought that was rather odd, because if he had turned to port he would have gone under our stern which would have been a much better thing to have done, he did an alteration to starboard which was big but it was not big enough, and I got headed and it finished up with us bow to bow and an angle of about 90 degrees and I baled out.”

“I dumped the traveller all the way down because there was about 30 knots of breeze and the boat would not bear away. As I crouched down to see I could see he had turned as well I had no idea that a ship that size – 160 metres – could turn so quickly and the bow was blown around and I saw his nav lights change underneath the boom, then I pushed the buttons on the pilot to come back up again, we both turned into each other effectively.”

“Anyway I missed him he came under my stern and I called him up and said: ‘that was rather close wasn’t’ it?’ and he went absolutely berserk, and I thought which bit of the rules of the road have I not understood whereby you are supposed to get out of the way and I call you and ask what you are going to do, you tell me and you still end up hitting me.”

“But I am going to report him. You can’t let people get way with that. All the others I called there was no problems, decent alterations and kept clear. They will insist on crossing in front of your bow and then of course if you get headed ten degrees, then it looks like you are on another collision course. Most of them had enough sense to make a big enough alteration t get out of the way, but I was pretty uncomfortable for a while. I must admit. On a 12 mile range I reckon I had nearly 20 ships at one point.”

“Now it is empty. I am blissfully alone. I have two ships at 12 miles I am going in towards Biscay and then up towards Ushant. Meantime I’m just going to get me head down and dry my feet out in my sleeping bag.”

“I suspect that the weather will continue to do what it has done all the way in, every time I tack it will head me. It will be dead easterly until I get over the continental shelf and then there should be a bit of north in it. Oh crikey I am ready to get in now. It has been like pulling teeth. I thought getting through the Azores was bad enough, but now every time I get knocked and knocked and knocked and I think I am going to go now, and so I tack it knocks me again.”