top of page

Keith White died on Thursday 17th January 2019, suddenly, at home.

Those of you who came to Keith's talk last March, and who met him at our 2018 Annual Dinner will remember a self effacing man, with a ready smile, a self deprecating sense of humour, the courage of a lion, and the determination of a Jack Russell terrier.

One of our sailing members who proved that focussing on ability, not disability, meant he could move metaphorical mountains; Keith was an inspiration to us. His sailing record alone shows his refusal to be limited by the lack of two functioning arms. A lasting memorial is 'his' page on Wikipedia, Keith White (Yachtsman).

When Keith spoke to us in Galmpton Village Hall he told us of his life, of his running food and supplies to Radio Caroline in his Harbour Defence Motor Launch, the Abri, a 72 foot vessel capable of outrunning the authorities, and of his hiding from blue flashing lights on his return to port.

He enthralled us with the details of his solo voyages, and astounded us with the knowledge that he was a self taught sailor whose first sailing experience was his first solo circumnavigation of the UK!

We met him first when he came into the harbour at Dartmouth one windy and cold October morning in 2015 when he needed help to bring the Marathon alongside a berth in the force 7 wind that was blowing that day. That day he formed a strong friendship not only with Tim Trent, one of the two Dart Harbour folk who helped him to berth that day, but also with the port of Dartmouth. Both friendships lasted.

In October 2015 he slipped out of Dartmouth to start on his Global Challenge. He was to circumnavigate the globe, solo, and non-stop. As we know, that was not to be. Damaged in the Bay of Biscay he put in to Spain for repairs, and set off again, only to be hamstrung by failure of his main and his backup self steering gear. After overwintering in the Caribbean, Keith came home with his first landfall in Dartmouth, before heading back to his home port of Cowes.

His plans were still record breaking. He planned and executed a clockwise circumnavigation of the entire British Isles, leaving every speck of land to starboard. His web site said:

In May 2017, disabled single handed sailor Keith White will cast off from Cowes on the Isle of Wight, to sail clockwise around the whole of British Isle’s. The voyage will take him non-stop around the west coast of Ireland and St Kilda, then passing north of the Shetlands Islands and south past the east coast of England to Dover then west along the English channel and back home to the Isle of Wight.

A nasty experience of being rammed by a fishing boat to the south of Ireland knocked out the aerials for his main radio sets, so he was left with very limited communications all the way round. A mega storm took out his mainsail at the most northerly point of his trip, and he struggled down the North Sea under headsail alone, but with the remains of the main flogging itself to death still up the mast.

This led to his featuring on the BBC Two documentary Saving Lives at Sea where the RNLI offered him assistance to reach Lowestoft. After running repairs and a short stay in hospital to treat blood poisoning, Keith continued to Cowes.

Keith used that trip to help Dart Sailability with fundraising, as he did with his March 2018 talk for us. He helped us to raise substantial funds.

The Jack Russel terrier coming to the fore, on his return he planned to immediately enter the 2017 Round the Island Race, which he did. And he invited Tim Trent to race with him. The report of that race makes interesting reading!

In 2018 his Round the Island Race led to his winning the class for sailors with disabilities. Despite many mishaps, Keith was a seaman and adventurer, and achieved more with his disability than most people do without one.

Thank you, Keith. Thank you for a life of inspiration, and for your quiet determination to succeed whatever the circumstances.

[This very personal obituary was written by Tim Trent on learning of Keith's death]

896 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page